Spaceport needed for business to lift-off

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Britain should have its own spaceport where satellites and intrepid travellers could be blasted into orbit, say business leaders.

Such a move would help the successful British space industry “really lift off”, according to the Institute of Directors (IoD).

Suitable locations for a spaceport could be found in Scotland, Northern Ireland or South West England, it said. One possibility suggested was a dual purpose air and spaceport on a man-made island in the Severn Estuary.

Others included lengthening the runway at an RAF base in Scotland or Northern Ireland – for instance, RAF Lossiemouth.

The proposals are set out in a new IoD report, Space – Britain’s New Infrastructure Frontier, which catalogues the rapid growth of Britain’s £8bn space sector.

The space industry in the UK, which is largely satellite based, supports 85,000 jobs and has more than doubled in size in the last decade. By 2020, it is expected to employ 100,000.

But it could go much further, according to the IoD. The report highlights the “private sector space revolution” ushered in by the end of the American space agency Nasa’s space shuttle programme.

A host of companies were now competing to provide space taxi services, and the cost of getting cargo into orbit was lowering rapidly. “Globally, the squeeze on public space agencies such as Nasa is leading to a private sector space revolution, with steep cuts in the cost of getting cargo into orbit,” said the IoD. “A massive opportunity beckons for the UK, should we choose to understand and embrace it.

“A few regulatory and infrastructure developments, including licensing a spaceport, would help the (British) space sector really lift off,” the report added.