By Nick Eyriey
Newquay Cornwall Airport has been identified as a possible location for the UK’s first spaceport for commercial space flight.
A cross-government team, including the UK Space Agency, Civil Aviation Authority and Department for Transport, has today published a long list of eight sites that it has identified as potentially suitable for a spaceport.
The Government is committed to achieving a four-fold expansion of the UK space industry to £40bn by 2030, including an ambition to establish a spaceport in the UK by 2018.
A spaceport is a facility for the operation of sub-orbital spaceplanes. These are commercial civilian aircraft that may operate to deploy satellites, perform space experiments, or for space tourism.
Newquay Cornwall Airport is the only site in England identified by the review as matching the proposed criteria for a spaceport. Other sites have been identified in Wales and Scotland.
The Department for Transport will now start a consultation period before inviting formal bids in the autumn, with a view to choosing a preferred site by April next year.
Newquay Cornwall Airport is already home to Aerohub, the aerospace-focused Enterprise Zone which extends to 325 hectares and is the largest planning-free development site in the UK. It is located on the coast with uncongested and unrestricted airspace and one of the longest runways (2,744m) in the UK – all crucial criteria for a spaceport.
As well as being home to an increasing number of aerospace-focused businesses on the site, Aerohub is also the UK test location for The BLOODHOUND Project, the UK-led global project to build a supersonic jet-powered car that aims to set a 1,000mph land speed record.
And it is at the forefront of developments in the unmanned aerial vehicles sector through a partnership with West Wales Airport under the banner of the National Aeronautical Centre.
Commenting on today’s announcement by the Minister for Universities and Science, which was made at the Farnborough International Airshow, Chris Pomfret, chairman of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The Aerohub at Newquay Cornwall Airport is a unique and nationally important asset and we want to unlock further growth in the aerospace and space sectors to create skilled well-paid jobs. Satellite technology is also an important part of the future economic strategy for Cornwall.
“To be shortlisted by the UK Space Agency review speaks volumes for the quality and location of Aerohub, but it is very early days. Before we make any decisions about whether we might eventually bid to host a spaceport we need to look carefully at the Civil Aviation Authority’s technical report and engage with the consultation over the coming months before deciding on any next steps.”