SPACE TOURISTS could be blasting off from one of eight sites named as possible locations for Britain’s first spaceport in just four years’ time.
Six of the sites shortlisted for the spaceport, due to open in 2018, are in Scotland and include Glasgow Prestwick Airport and RAF Lossiemouth. All have to meet strict criteria, including being a safe distance from densely populated areas and having a runway that can be extended to more than 3,000m (9,842ft). The aim is to use the spaceport to launch tourists into space as well as commercial satellites.
By 2030, the Government hopes to capture 10 per cent of the world’s space market, and if this target is met, opening up the UK tourism industry to specialist operators such as Virgin Galactic and XCor could be worth £40bn and provide 100,000 jobs.
Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill said: “In order to lead the way on commercial space flight, we will need to establish a spaceport that enables us to operate regular flights. The work published today has got the ball rolling – now we want to work with others to take forward this exciting project.”
There have been reports the Government is hoping Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson will build the port as part of his Virgin Galactic project. The first flights are due to take off from a purpose-built spaceport in New Mexico in the USA, at the start of the year, with passengers paying £120,000 for a 150-minute flight.