UK Spaceports: Current Progress & Status2nd Apr 2021
Several UK spaceports are currently pending approval. The majority of these spaceports are to be built in Scotland, which is the centre of the UK space industry. However, one facility is proposed for construction in Wales. Two more proposed spaceport projects are to execute horizontal launches instead of traditional vertical launches. So far, it is unclear which of the planned UK spaceports will be commissioned first. Let’s take a look at the applicants’ chances.
UK Spaceports Construction Odds -from Slim to High
Snowdonia is the only UK spaceport project that is proposed in Wales. Its progress has been very slow so far, even though in March 2020, B2Space company executed a successful balloon test launch in the area. Besides, this facility will be located in the national park area, so application approval chances are slim.
Campbeltown Airport has slightly higher chances than Snowdonia for receiving the necessary approval. However, given that this site was shortlisted in 2014 and still hasn’t progressed far, its construction permit raises reasonable concerns.
North Uist in the Scottish Western Isles also made the original shortlist. Still, in 2019, this facility encountered serious opposition from wildlife activists.
Prestwick Spaceport is one of the proposed horizontal launch facilities. Its application chances are not that slim, especially since November last year, when the UK and Scottish governments announced their intention to fund £80m on its construction.
Another promising horizontal launch facility is Spaceport Cornwall. It should arise on the basis of Newquay airport. The facility already has some of the necessary infrastructure — Goonhilly Earth Station. Besides, Newquay has the longest runway in the UK, perfect for horizontal launches. Virgin Orbit should become Cornwall’s primary resident. Its modified Boeing plane, nicknamed Cosmic Girl, is already launch-ready. So, it’s no wonder that Cornwall hopes for its first commercial launches by 2022.
Shetland Space Centre is second in line for the title of the first UK spaceport. US aerospace company Lockheed Martin should become its primary resident. In 2022, the company plans to launch from this facility, executing a £23.5m contract for the UK government. The UK Pathfinder mission, according to the UKSA deputy chief executive, will help the country gain a leading position in the small satellite launch market.
Sutherland Space Hub, developed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, also has strong support from the UK Space Agency. Its primary resident, Orbex Space, has received a £5.5m government grant to speed up launchpad construction. Sutherland is one of the most promising UK spaceports, and many believe it will be commissioned first.