Argyll and Bute Council is currently working with partners in Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Machrihanish Airbase Community Company (MACC) to prepare a bid for the former MoD facility at Machrihanish to site the UK’s new spaceport.
The site offers unique areas of competitive advantage in terms of the length of its runway, location away from major centres of population, distance from congested airspace free from MoD constraints and the ability to expand.
For so long the preserve of big national agencies, space travel is now opening up on a commercial basis, with new designs of spacecraft being developed to take people and materials into space. These new rocketplanes are more versatile than the huge three-stage rockets whose vertical launches are so familiar and take off from a conventional runway.
The UK is a world leader in the satellite business, with a particular strength in small satellites, so these developments come at an important time for the industry. Scottish companies are at the forefront of this industry, providing components and systems for the satellites.
The UK has no launch facilities of its own - a striking gap for a country with a global presence in the satellite production industry. The UK Government has made the establishment of a UK spaceport by 2018 a key priority.
The former RAF base at the southern end of the Kintyre Peninsula is ideally located for a polar orbit satellite launch, with nothing but open sea to the west. Following a buyout, the site is now owned by the local community through MACC, who have already unlocked some of the development potential of the site by attracting Scotland’s first on-shore salmon farm and a wind turbine producer as well as hosting a car rally earlier this year.
The site is over 1000 acres, with huge open spaces and a range of facilities, including the UK’s longest runway at over 3km, the length of which is authorised for landings by the NASA space shuttle.
An operational spaceport would provide the UK and its neighbours with a vital piece of infrastructure for the European aerospace industry.
The ‘Cape Campbeltown’ spaceport would be a huge boost to the local and national economy. Not just the skilled jobs it would bring, the opportunities for hi-tech supplies and services and the boost to tourism, this new spaceport would signal a clear intent that the UK is embracing industries of the future, helping drive forward innovations in science, technology and the economy.
Watch this space for more details!