The Queen set out the programme for Parliament in her speech today (Wednesday 18 May).Glasgow Prestwick Airport welcomes the inclusion of a Modern Transport Bill in this programme. This Bill will include plans for commercial spaceports in the United Kingdom.
Glasgow Prestwick Airport is calling for a licensing process for the selection of suitable spaceport sites to enable the commercial space market to move this forward at pace.
Commenting on the ongoing spaceport selection process, Mike Stewart, Glasgow Prestwick Airport Business Development Director, said:
"It is great to hear that spaceports are back on the political agenda. The space industry in the UK is already huge and growing. However, a spaceport would support that growth even further by providing our own launch capability.
"When Government first announced its plans to identify a site for a commercial spaceport in the UK they said they would like to have it up and running by 2018. Glasgow Prestwick believe that there could be a spaceport up and running in the UK for that date if the site selection was a licensing process rather than a bid process. A licensing process could be similar to the approach taken for airports – where the CAA ensures that sites are safe and compliant – and the commercial market invests to create and operate a spaceport.
"If we were able to secure a license, Glasgow Prestwick would provide the best opportunity to meet the 2018 target date. We have virtually all the infrastructure in place and we would require a relatively small amount of investment – around £3 million - to be up and running according to experienced US spaceport consultancy RS&H. We also have the technically capable workforce here already with businesses like BAE, UTC, GE and Spirit Aerospace all based at the airport.
"We are working with the space industry to understand its needs and we have a network of suppliers and customers with memorandums of understanding in place and we are continuing to build upon this. Given that this will be a commercial spaceport, with no investment from Government, it will take industry to make this a reality.
"The space industry is broad and diverse and the same can be said for the requirements for space launch sites. As such, the United Kingdom might find that it could accommodate multiple sites that would be used for different purposes. This will encourage the UK to set up its own launch companies – like Orbital Access, which has based itself at Glasgow Prestwick Airport – and it will also attract multiple space launch providers to establish themselves in the UK. This will make the UK's launch offering more attractive and affordable in this global marketplace."
Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council and Chair of the Prestwick Aerospace Stakeholder Group, said: "Glasgow Prestwick Airport is perfect to be the UK's first commercial spaceport and I warmly welcome the Modern Transport Bill announced in Her Majesty The Queen's speech today, which will provide the framework for that first facility.
"If jobs and economic growth are what this government wants to see, they really need look no further than Prestwick. We have a strong backbone – thanks to our public, private, industry and academic partners as well our people, skills and infrastructure – to deliver not just a spaceport, but a global centre of excellence for the aerospace, space technology industries and space tourism. This will be truly transformational and will deliver an estimated 2,000 additional high-value jobs as well as an incredible £320 million of additional economic activity over ten years. These figures speak for themselves and show why it's vital this legislation is enacted sooner rather than later.
"The economic benefits of this will be felt across the country – and across the world – so let's all get to work on encouraging government to make this happen."