Campbeltown spaceport moves a step closer to reality

Artist impression image of proposed UK Spaceport at Machrihanish Airport, Campbeltown.
Artist impression image of proposed UK Spaceport at Machrihanish Airport, Campbeltown.
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A new milestone has been reached in the development of the UK’s first horizontal launch spaceport at the Campbeltown Airport site on the west coast of Scotland.

Leading UK space science and technology firms QinetiQ and Telespazio VEGA UK have agreed Memorandums of Understanding to work with Discover Space UK on investigating the potential of the former RAF Machrihanish site that incorporates Campbeltown Airport. The agreements follow discussions and site visits arranged by Discover Space UK to promote the former RAF airbase’s suitability for potential space plane launches.

Under the terms of the Memorandums of Understanding, partners have agreed to ­investigate the launch capability at the Campbeltown Spaceport, develop feasibility and business cases as well as engaging with the government to advance the UK space industry.

Tom Millar, director of Discover Space UK, said: “I am delighted that both QinetiQ and Telespazio VEGA UK are going to investigate the Campbeltown site’s potential for becoming a UK spaceport launch site and would like to thank all those involved in the process so far.”

He added: “We strongly believe the Campbeltown site and indeed the whole Highlands and Islands region offer the potential for the creation of safe, affordable and commercially viable spaceports.”

Campbeltown Airport is leased from the MACC group and operated by Highlands and Island Airports Limited.

Established in 1916, Machrihanish Airbase played a role in both world wars and was a key strategic site for Nato during the Cold War.

The site was purchased in 2012 from the Ministry of Defence and is being developed into a mixed use business park alongside the existing operational airport.

The UK government has previously said it wanted to establish a spaceport by the end of 2018. It launched a consultation in 2014 and two years ago it drew up a shortlist of potential sites. These also included Prestwick, Stornoway, Newquay airport in Cornwall and Llanbedr airport in the Snowdonia National Park.

The spaceport project is being developed by the UK Space Agency on behalf of the UK government and the legislation for the development of a UK spaceport will be contained in the Modern Transport Bill that is currently going through parliament.