Ayrshire joins the space race

SpaceShipTwo completed a successful cold flow test on April 12, 2013 over the Mojave desert. This image was taken by MARS Scientific.
SpaceShipTwo completed a successful cold flow test on April 12, 2013 over the Mojave desert. This image was taken by MARS Scientific.

Ayrshire is joining the space race with Prestwick Airport launching a bid to become the UK’s first spaceport.

The airport could become a launch station for next-generation satellites and space instruments using a modern generation of horizontal take-off space launch vehicles.

The UK Government has re-affirmed the country’s need to have an operational Spaceport capability by 2018 to support the burgeoning UK space industry. The facility will become a launch station for next-generation satellites and space instruments using the modern generation of horizontal take-off space launch vehicles. It will also be an operating base for manned flights using reusable space craft such as those being developed by Virgin Galactic and XCOR.

It is expected that the Spaceport will become a major hub for companies involved in the space industry.

Iain Cochrane, Chief Executive of Glasgow Prestwick Airport, said: “Prestwick Airport has been a pioneer of the UK aerospace industry and aviation since its foundation in 1935. I believe Prestwick offers the perfect conditions for space launches and our extensive developed concrete airfield and 3km runway provide the facilities needed for all types of re-usable spacecraft in development.

“We have an experienced high-tech aerospace workforce and a substantial aviation and high-tech engineering industrial footprint. Our Scottish Enterprise incentive zone supports the growth of the space industry. Our universities in Glasgow and Ayr are at the forefront of space and aerospace engineering research and teaching. “While we have safe over-water flight paths, we also have over 4m people within a 2 hour drive giving us access to the widest range of specialists and expertise. This combination of features is unique amongst the sites being considered and positions Prestwick as the leading candidate to become the UK’s first Spaceport.”

Glasgow Prestwick Airport, in collaboration with South Ayrshire Council, has established a focused bid team to run the bid and lead its interfaces with the UK authorities and the selection programme.

Prestwick Spaceport Director Stuart McIntyre said: “We have been working hard to structure our programme since the consultation programme closed last October. We have a detailed understanding of what is required and have already begun our bid preparations.

“We are determined to offer the global space industry a highly capable facility that will exploit Scotland’s perfect location for polar orbit launches and space programme research and development. Prestwick will sit at the heart of an end-to-end space industrial capability allowing commercial space application developers to realise their designs, launch them to orbit and distribute their service to their global customers.”

Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council and Chair of the Glasgow Prestwick Airport and Aerospace Stakeholder Group, applauded Prestwick’s bid: “Glasgow Prestwick Airport has extensive developed facilities and the ideal infrastructure and resources to deliver a first-class spaceport for the UK. This includes a significant amount of land for aerospace and spaceport industries. With direct motorway access, we are less than half an hour from Glasgow and easily accessible from all parts of the UK – you really couldn’t ask for anywhere better to fulfil this important role. Aerospace is a major part of our lives in Ayrshire and we look forward to making the Glasgow Prestwick spaceport a reality and welcoming the space industry to this wonderful part of the world.”

The UK Government selection programme is expected to run until October 2015 with Prestwick one of the possible locations being considered alongside Newquay in Cornwall, Llanbedr in Wales and a number of alternative Scottish sites.