UK Builds Commercial Spaceport To Bring Space Tourism, And Virgin Galactic, To Britain

UK Commercial Spaceport
The U.K. plans to have an operational commercial spaceport by 2018.

Looking to capitalize on the anticipated burgeoning space tourism industry, U.K. officials have announced plans to build a commercial spaceport in the British Isles. Government officials will disclose the potential spaceport locations on Tuesday at the Farnborough International Airshow, the Guardian said Monday.

Britain plans to have the spaceport ready by 2018 for both manned launches and commercial satellite launches.  

“We have worked out the regulatory regime we need to launch spaceships in Britain and assessed what kind of aviation checks will have to be imposed when we put craft into space,” Minister of State for Universities and Science David Willetts said in a statement.

The spaceport could provide launch locations for the likes of Virgin Galactic, owned by Richard Branson, and other companies involved in commercial space ventures. Virgin Galactic, which will fly passengers aboard the SpaceShipTwo, has said it will launch out of Spaceport America, located in New Mexico. Branson has targeted 2014 as the start of commercial service. Spaceport America serves as Virgin Galactic’s headquarters and its base for space tourism operations. California-based SpaceX and Denver-based UP Aerospace are also tenants of Spaceport America.

California-based XCOR Aerospace also plans to send passengers into space aboard the XCOR Lynx Mark II and will use Spaceport Mojave and Spaceport Curacao for launches. A ticket aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will cost $250,000, while XCOR has three options, the cheapest being a trip above an altitude of 60 kilometers (37 miles), which costs $95,000. Arizona recently passed legislation to bring commercial spaceflight to the state.

Outside of the U.S., there are commercial spaceports in Sweden and Malaysia.

Some possible locations for a spaceport in the U.K. include Norfolk; Bristol; and Lossiemouth, Scotland. Lossiemouth could be an ideal candidate as Branson has already expressed his interest in the location, notes the Guardian.

The announcement of a commercial spaceport in Britain reflects recent growth in the nation's space program. Surrey Satellites Technology launched the TechDemoSat-1 satellite while the U.K. Space Agency launched the Ukube-1 cubesat aboard the Soyuz-2 spacecraft on Saturday.

Britain currently has one astronaut in the ESA Astronaut Corps, Timothy Peake, who will launch to the International Space Station in November 2015. 

Established in April 2010 to replace the British National Space Center, the U.K. Space Agency is a member of the European Space Agency. Britain's space industry has grown by 7.2 percent since 2012, and the goal is to grow it to 40 billion pounds ($68.3 billion) by 2030.  

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