Britain to have commercial spaceport by 2018

14 Jul 2014

A Virgin Galactic spaceship

With the help of Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic, Britain is expected to have its first commercial spaceport by 2018 for manned missions and the launch of commercial satellites.

The UK government has begun the planning process of selecting a site out of eight possible locations. The chosen site is expected to be integral to the services of Virgin Galactic and the US-based space tourism company XCOR.

According to The Guardian, while the exact potential locations for the spaceport have yet to be revealed, it’s understood that some of those could include the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, which Branson himself has put forward as the most ideal location. The spot houses one of the country’s largest helicopter rescue centres.

The decision to build a commercial spaceport is seen as a change of step for the British government, which had previously held back on substantial financial backing for the space-tech industry. However, much like Ireland, the sector is growing rapidly and the government sees a future benefit to the economy.

The UK’s science minister David Willetts spoke about the future commercial spaceport.

“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,” Willetts said. “In the wake of that work we have now created a shortlist of locations for the first British spaceport.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic