The U.K. is moving fast to build its very own spaceport. (Graphic: UK Space Agency)
Richard Branson is trying to supply the space planes. Now, the U.K. wants to supply the spaceport.
Britain has announced plans to build a commercial spaceport by 2018, in hopes of being a launching point for tourist space flights. British officials are specifically trying to woo Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceplane program, which aims to take tourists for six-hour space flights starting next year. Those $250,000-per-passenger flights will originate from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
The U.K. hopes to attract commercial spaceplanes such as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. (Graphic: Virgin Galactic)
The U.K. is looking at eight possible venues for its spaceport. The leading contenders are mostly in Scotland, which officials like because of the long runways and, most importantly, the sparsely populated rural and coastal areas. These features would lessen the potential impact of what officials call “down-range abnormal occurrences,” aka spaceplane accidents. (The potential accidents are a big concern; British air officials have estimated that commercial space flights can be a thousand times more dangerous than commercial airliners.)
Houston has already announced plans to build its own spaceport. (Photo: AP)
The spaceport project is a big deal in the U.K., which has never launched a craft into space. And it’s an intriguing prospect for travelers as well, as a U.K. spaceport could potentially open the door for competing spaceports all over the world, including the U.S. (In addition to the New Mexico spaceport, Houston has already announced plans to build one of its own.) Who knows, there could be a spaceport coming to a city near you.