Prestwick hopes of becoming a “spaceport” boosted by deal with US company
The Scottish Government bought the loss-making airport for £1 in 2013, and is trying to find ways for it to make money. Prestwick now has hopes of becoming a “space hub” delivering small satellites and tourists into low-level orbit. The Scottish Government will provide a funding package, for 2 years, of £240,000 from South Ayrshire Council and Scottish Enterprise. This will cover “infrastructure, business development, energy reduction and supply chain development.” The Queen’s Speech in May confirmed aims to drive through the complex legislation needed to certify the safe operation of space vehicles through the Modern Transport Bill. The DfT is setting up a regulatory framework to license individual sites, with Prestwick and two other Scottish locations – Campbeltown on the west coast and Stornoway in the Western Isles – among those short-listed last year. There are hopes of jobs, if the project goes ahead. Prestwick has now signed a memorandum of understanding with California-based space launch vehicle designer XCOR Aerospace, and space plane design and operating company Orbital Access Limited, setting out an action plan. This would be a competitor to the Virgin Galactic sub-orbital passenger flights, taking 2 passengers at a time into an orbit of 350,000 feet for a short time, at immense cost.
Prestwick’s spaceport ambitions boosted by deal with US spaceplane designer
By Helen McArdle
Space tourism from Prestwick is a step closer after a US firm at the cutting edge of spaceflight design struck a deal with the Ayrshire base to bring manned launch services to Scotland.
The spaceport has signed a memorandum of understanding with California-based space launch vehicle designer XCOR Aerospace and space plane design and operating company Orbital Access Limited, setting out an action plan for operations at Prestwick.
The move takes it closer to launching manned flights using XCOR’s Lynx, a two-seater supersonic spacecraft which is vying with Virgin Galactic to become the first firm to launch sub-orbital passenger flights.
XCOR has already sold more than 200 tickets at $95,000 (£72,000) each for the inaugural flights, which promise give passengers a view of Earth from a gravity-defying altitude of 350,000ft.
The tie-up between XCOR and Glasgow Prestwick comes as the taxpayer-owned airport ramps up its efforts to become the UK’s first spaceport, a venture that would also allow it to become a major base for scientific research and satellite launches.
Mike Stewart, business development director at Glasgow Prestwick, said: “We already have the vast majority of the infrastructure in place and with as little as £1million investment we could be up and running.
“Having a pipeline of partners, customers and suppliers in place will be hugely helpful in pulling together the business case for the investment required to get up and running.
“The progress that we are making now that the UK Government has decided to make this a licensing regime rather than a bidding process demonstrates that this was the right decision for the industry and the UK economy.
“This has allowed the market to accelerate the process and decide where it feels that launches can be best delivered. We are delighted that Orbital Access and XCOR have decided that the best place for them is Glasgow Prestwick Spaceport and that they are establishing operational bases onsite.”
XCOR president and CEO, Jay Gibson, added: “Strategic aerospace industrial partnerships and strong routes to market characterise our approach to bringing this ground breaking system to fruition.
“Our unique reusable rocket motor technology is at the core of the Lynx and we are looking forward to working with partners in the Scottish aerospace and space sector.”
The collaboration, which is supported by Scottish Enterprise, was unveiled yesterday at Farnborough International Airshow.
Stuart McIntyre, the chief executive of Orbital Access, said: “The Lynx represents a highly versatile manned spacecraft to service space research missions in zero gravity, and provide academics and industry with a unique and responsive research environment. It can also support leisure sub-orbital flights.
“This will complement our satellite launch systems, which are in development, and complete the suite of launch services Orbital Access will be offering at spaceports globally.”
The development comes after doubts over the future of the Lynx project when XCOR began laying off US staff involved in designing the spaceplane, which was first announced in 2008.
In March, there were also reports that XCOR might divert resources into other research after it signed a deal with United Launch Alliance, the Boeing-Lockheed partnership that launches lots of military satellites, to develop a new rocket engine powered by liquid hydrogen.
The prospects for space tourism generally suffered a blow when Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed during a test flight over the Mojave desert in 2014, killing co-pilot Michael Alsbury.
Funding lift for Prestwick Airport space hub plan
Officials say a spaceport at Prestwick could deliver 1,450 jobs.
Plans to create a space hub around Government-owned Prestwick Airport have received a fresh funding package of £240,000 from local government and economic development authorities.
The money, supplied equally by South Ayrshire Council and Scottish Enterprise, will fund a two-year support package covering infrastructure, business development, energy reduction and supply chain development.
It includes the appointment of a new “programme manager” to be based out of the airport’s administrative offices. The move comes as the struggling operation competes to become one of the UK’s first “spaceports” delivering small satellites and tourists into low-level orbit.
Last month’s Queen’s Speech confirmed aims to drive through the complex legislation needed to certify the safe operation of space vehicles through the Modern Transport Bill.
The Department for Transport is setting up a regulatory framework to license individual sites, with Prestwick and two other Scottish locations – Campbeltown on the west coast and Stornoway in the Western Isles – among those short-listed last year.
Should Prestwick get a licence, officials say the project could deliver as many as 1,450 jobs within ten years, with £320 million of additional economic activity. The new programme manager will work alongside a variety of organisations through the Prestwick Aerospace partnership.
Eileen Howat, chief executive of South Ayrshire Council, said it is now the right time to push forward ambitious plans for Prestwick. The Scottish Government bought the loss-making airport for £1 in 2013, and is seeking to re-build its fortunes under newly-appointed chief executive Ron Smith.
Scotland leading race to host UK’s first spaceport
4 January 2016 (Scotsman)
Campbeltown, Stornoway and Prestwick among Scottish contenders Scottish spaceport ‘could be operational by 2019’ Cornwall and Gwynedd also in running
SCOTLAND is leading the race to host the UK’s first space port, with a new report suggesting it could be operational by 2019.
All of the potential Scottish space sites are in step with a government checklist of base requirements – with their remote nature helping allay safety and noise pollution fears over bids south of the Border.
Spaceports have previously only been seen in films like Star Wars, but the government is keen to establish one in the UK to allow regular space tourism flights and to send satellites into orbit.
With firms like Space X and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic expressing an interest in launching flights from the UK as soon as 2018, the reality of space tourists and commercial rocket launches is tantalisingly close.
The Department of Transport published a list of criteria for any site bidding last week.
Key among them was a clear flight path north, over the sea, into a polar orbit.
The government also made it clear it preferred a coastal site with low population density.
The demands put the Scottish contenders, Campbeltown, Stornoway and Prestwick, ahead of competitors in England and Wales.
Newquay in Cornwall and Llanbedr airport in Wales are also being considered, but Tom Millar, director of the Campbeltown-based Discover Space UK bid, said he was ‘confident’ of a Scottish victory.
He said: “I’d be surprised if our bid doesn’t finish top of the league. The more detail we get of what the government wants, the more convinced I am that our bid is the best.
“The driver from our point of view is that we are suffering depopulation and unemployment. This could be a game-changer.”
Howie Firth of the Spaceport Scotland group added: “Economically, a spaceport is not a luxury – it’s a vital investment.
“It would be a tremendous prize to come to Scotland. It would attract industries, create jobs and it would be the most incredible inspiration. The potential is huge.”
The UK’s space industry is still relatively small, with firms looking to launch satellites having to wait for a slot on rockets launching from South America or Kazakhstan.
Mr Firth added: “The current situation is like having a shipbuilding industry thousands of miles from the sea.
“If instead of having to package up a satellite and send it miles away you could simply put it in a van and drive to a spaceport it would make a tremendous difference.”
A final list of technical specifications for the spaceport will be published next year before the official bidding process opens.