Speech

Spaceport UK

Sets out plans for the UK's first spaceport.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Robert Goodwill MP

Good morning.

The fact that there was such a rush to exhibit here today (15 July 2014) and that we have so many great names in this audience is testament to the fact that the space industry in Britain is once again confident and flourishing.

It is backed by a science base that is truly world class, it has the technological edge to keep Britain competitive and it is tuning in to other sectors.

50 years ago, President John F Kennedy described the exploration of space as holding the key to our future on earth.

But he cautioned that the challenge of doing so would be so difficult and expensive to accomplish and that it would require a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities.

Now, we’re at the dawn of nothing less than a second space revolution.

Space science, technology and exploration is still absolutely essential to tackling some of the biggest challenges we face from cutting congestion to tackling man made climate change.

Predictably as the cost of building small satellites falls, the demand for them is rising.

This means that we currently have a queue of companies waiting for a launch for their small satellites.

We need more launches.

And often, satellite operators are paying a premium for those launches that are available – sometimes more than the cost of the satellite itself – for a piggyback launch on a traditional launch system.

Meanwhile, the technologies that enable commercial spaceflight, including space tourism, are now just over the horizon.

That’s going to change the economics of space.

By 2030 the government rocket programmes that have been the work-horses of the last fifty years will be competing with new, lower-cost services to meet the needs of the growing space sector. As a result, we can expect spaceflight to increasingly move from being a nationalised industry towards private commerce.

Commercial spaceflight has an estimated global market of £40 billion by 2030.

Now, Britain’s aerospace industry is already thriving and the space sector is also growing fast.

This week the UK Space Agency has released the new top-line figures of space’s continued success. The sector has been growing at an average of 7.2% over the last 2 years. It now contributes £11.3 billion to the UK economy each year, and employs more than 34,000 people around the country.

And I’m delighted to announce today that Lockheed Martin is establishing a new space technology office at the UK Space Gateway in Harwell Oxford.

We want the UK to be at the forefront of the next stage of spaceflight.

For you to be able to grow and expand your businesses and we have a clear ambition for the UK to capture 10% of a global space market likely to be worth £400 billion by 2030.

That’s why it is important we start laying the foundations today for the infrastructure that we will need tomorrow. We are the first European country to take the challenge of spaceplane regulation seriously. The CAA has made a detailed set of recommendations following their review of spaceplane opportunities and technology under development.

Spaceplanes are currently regulated as aircraft, because they use lift to go through the atmosphere. But in the short-term what we are going to do is treat them as experimental aircraft – which of course they are. This will mean that flights will operate on the principle of informed consent from participants.

We also want to ensure that we have the facilities needed for a worldclass spaceport. We therefore asked the CAA to examine where we are strong and where we are not, and where we will succeed and where we may not.

The CAA has recommended that no new greenfield site be developed.

Instead an existing aerodrome should be adapted and improved if required.

They have identified essential criteria for the location of the UK’s spaceport.

And this is why I can announce today that the department will be consulting on these criteria to get them right.

We think it will need good transport links – by land, sea and air.

As the nature of the early flights will at the cutting edge of technology, it will need to be secluded from large population centres and busy conventional airspace.

We know strong consistent crosswinds could restrict initial operations, as will cloud cover.

So it will need to be located somewhere with as favourable weather conditions as possible.

The spaceport is also likely to require substantial site with the ability to incorporate a runway of more than 3,000 meters.

Based on these criteria I am pleased to announce today that the CAA has identified 8 potential locations for the UK’s first spaceport.

They are (in alphabetical order):

  • Campbeltown airport
  • Kinloss barracks
  • Llanbedr airport
  • RAF Leuchars
  • RAF Lossiemouth
  • Newquay-Cornwall airport
  • Glasgow Prestwick airport
  • Stornoway airport

These areas meet the criteria but I should stress other places in the UK may also do so.

More detailed work will now need to be undertaken by the CAA.

At the same time we will speak to colleagues in national governments, including the United States, and interested commercial operators.

We want to forge partnerships and to share experience and expertise with our colleagues including the Federal Aviation Authority’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation and NASA. I know Dr. Nield will say a bit more about the US experience of commercial spaceflight and how this may impact on Britain’s plans.

Our plan is for Britain to have a fully functional, operating spaceport by 2018. This would serve as a European focal point for the pioneers of commercial spaceflight using the potential of spaceflight experience companies like Virgin Galactic, XCOR and Swiss S3 to pave the way for satellite launch services to follow. It would also create a centre of gravity for related technology and service businesses.

This exercise has involved 3 government departments working together.

BIS is responsible for the space plan and I am grateful for the progress the Ministry of Defence has been making on ITAR, which is a big issue for any company wanting to bring a spaceplane from the US.

I look forward to working with all of you over the coming years to ensure we achieve our ambition for Britain.

Thank you for listening.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the show.

Published 15 July 2014