SCOTLAND’S Discover Space UK, one of the front runners to host the country’s first spaceport, says it is ‘runway-ready’ to support the Government’s ambitions following the Queen’s speech.
Based at the community-owned airbase near Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula, the Machrihanish Airbase Community Company (MACC) proposal is the only shortlisted bidder to have been twice approved for spaceflight and is the only one of the list that can meet the UK Government’s minimum runway length for the proposed facility.
In her speech, Her Royal Highness declared support for the UK Government’s bid to establish a commercial spaceport worth up to £40 billion a year to the economy by 2030.
Reacting to the speech, Tom Millar, chairman of MACC and Discover Space UK, said: “It’s clear there remains a keen appetite for a spaceport in the UK and we’re ready to show we share the government’s enthusiasm and passion to make this happen.
“Today’s speech didn’t quite represent the firing of the starter’s pistol, but it does suggest that things will move forward soon and we’re looking forward to putting forward our case as to why Campbeltown is the best possible choice for a spaceport.
“We are ideally placed to best advance the country’s space ambitions and Scotland’s current place as a leading international player in satellite and space technology.
“Twice approved for spaceflight and runway-ready, Machrihanish is ready to help the Government meet its ambitions.”
The base’s space credentials go back as far as 1981, when NASA approved the site as an emergency landing spot for the Space Shuttle. The 3,049m long runway, which launches straight over the Atlantic Ocean, is one of the few able to welcome a landing shuttle and get it back in the air via a Boeing 747 Shuttle Aircraft Carrier.
Then, in 2009, Virgin Galactic had said Machrihanish was one of its preferred sites for a UK spaceport.
Mr Millar added: “Our strengths from a technical and strategic standpoint are significant and we are hoping that the UK Government takes this into account when making its decision. We are the only bidder who can make any necessary changes in a short space of time – and with minimal air traffic, there’s little concern about interfering with busy timetables.
“We have terrific support from the community and our local authority who are both keen to work with us to bring the country’s first spaceport to Kintyre. With significant room for development on the site, terrific opportunity for economic regeneration and first-class safety facilities, we are exceptionally well-placed to move forward with the development required at short notice.”
Mr Millar added: “One of our other huge assets is that we are set amongst some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Space tourism will be a significant part of any successful spaceport. With some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes, miles of sandy beaches, two world-class links golf courses and luxury hotels – there’s few places that can compete.
“Top that off with 12 globally-renowned whisky distilleries on our doorstep, including three in Campbeltown itself, and we have a very compelling argument to offer the best option for business and leisure space activity.”