Beginning with at least some online presence, the Scottish spaceport website quite rightly calls it ‘Scotland’s Great Opportunity’. That’s a massive understatement potentially, depending on the development of the spaceport, and the potential for commercial users in the UK.
Scotland, again like Wales but even more so one might imagine, has the backing of a devolved government. It just seems way ahead in all honesty…The Scottish sites have a great deal going for them in terms of most of the criteria set out by the UK Space Agency, and again my questions about the suitability turn to more mundane every day commercial considerations such as access. The UK is so incredibly ‘bottom heavy’, with the south of England containing most of the population and wealth. As such, it’s hard for me to imagine that any government would approve potentially the most important economic decision with a bearing on the future which saw the resultant spaceport situated as far away from the south of England as possible. Often decisions (certainly political decisions) have unexpected outcomes that appear to fly in the face of the evidence, simple because political imperatives outweigh evidence, and so don’t expect the front-runner Prestwick site to win, simply because it’s the best location for the given criteria.
To state the massively obvious – what if Scotland becomes independent? Only this week, Alex Salmond, former First Minister of Scotland declared that a 2nd referendum on Scotland’s independence was ‘inevitable’ With rhetoric like that going on, the Scottish sites could be the best by miles, but there would be a public outcry if such an important UK site was to be built at great expense in a location that may soon cease to be in the UK – why not build the UK spaceport in France, it’s closer to the density of population in the UK, and closer to Surrey Satellites, now one of the world leaders in satellites.
Scotland has great reasons to be considered however, and while we’re on the topic of satellites, Clyde Space is also an extremely interesting growing satellite company, said to be expected to turn over in excess of £20 million over the next 3 years – not to be taken lightly! Clyde Space is a pretty exciting company actually, allowing organisations, academic institutions companies (and even individuals) to purchase cubesats (small satellites) for a wide range of applications.
The Prestwick site seems to have it all, owned by the Scottish government (where there is the will to make this happen) not far from Glasgow, a major city, and with better transport links than to most of the other officially shortlisted sites.
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.”
So Prestwick is kind of a no-brainer really, the right site, close to the right places but not too close, by the coast…but then again, so is northern France…