Scotland could soon become home to the UK’s first spaceport, according to wildly optimistic plans unveiled by councillors from the Western Isles. Yes, that’s the part of Scotland that’s hard to get to and is a million miles from basically everywhere.
STV reports that Stornaway Airport could soon become a Spaceport, which could be capable of receiving both horizontal and vertical take-off vehicles. It could be ready by 2018.
This follows a call from the UK government for bids to host Britain’s first foray into space launches, with other touted locations including Glasgow Prestwick Airport and a number of RAF bases. Several of the latter have already been discounted because they are needed for normal military operations.
The hope is that such a spaceport would attract the likes of Virgin Galactic and Xcor to the area, as well as boost Western Scotland’s science and technology industries. Xcor, has apparently already expressed an interest in setting up shop in Europe.
The remote location could prove to be a boon: CAA rules for spaceports require runways of more than 3000m, and the ability to be extended if need be. They also have to be away from populated areas. Coastal locations are also preferred. So don’t expect to be heading to the Moon via Heathrow any time soon.
Stornoway, we have a problem.
So could Scotland soon become a major player in the space industry? There’s perhaps just two tiny flaws in this otherwise brilliant plan.
First off, space launches generally require good weather, hence why Virgin’s current base is in the Nevada desert and NASA launches from Florida… and secondly, it is generally better to launch rockets from closer to the equator.