Flights from Newquay to outer space?

March 04th, 2015

Newquay Airport has been included in the UK government’s shortlist of five aerodromes that could host a UK spaceport by 2018. This announcement has reduced the number of runways first suggested as candidates when last year’s consultation got under way.

The others still in the process are Campbeltown, Glasgow Prestwick, and Stornoway in Scotland; and Llanbedr in Wales. RAF Leuchars is confirmed as a potential temporary facility. The government has ruled out two airfields in the consultation: RAF Lossiemouth and Kinloss Barracks in Scotland. The decision was made for operational defence reasons, it said.

The emphasis will be on the expected emergence of a new breed of low-cost rocket planes that can launch fare-paying passengers to sub-orbital altitudes and also satellites into orbit. Most of the potential vehicles are still quite some time away from flying, but ministers believe that if the UK gets its act together now, the nation can catch the first wave when it arrives. Whilst spacecraft are unlikely to become a popular method of travel for most of those on holiday in the county, particularly those in dog friendly accommodation in Cornwall, there is bound to be a huge interest in this type of technology thereby boosting visitor numbers.

Precisely where the British spaceport would be sited will depend on a number of factors, but the overriding imperative of the licensing authorities will be to find a location that limits danger and inconvenience to the general public.

That is why the six potentials listed are all on the coast: the spaceplanes could then operate out over water. Even so, the environmental impacts will have to be carefully managed, and an opening found in Britain’s highly congested airspace (more than two million flights transit UK airspace every year).

Aviation minister Robert Goodwill said in a statement: “I want Britain to lead the way in commercial spaceflight. Establishing a spaceport will ensure we are at the forefront of this exciting new technology. “Today’s consultation response marks another step forward in our work to support this emerging industry, which will create jobs and drive economic growth.”