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United Kingdom Space

Scotland Could Become Home To Britain's First Spaceport 151

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-place-to-launch dept.
An anonymous reader writes Scotland could take a giant leap for mankind by becoming the home of Britain's first spaceport. UK Government ministers will announce on Tuesday eight potential sites for a base for sending rockets and tourists into orbit. RAF bases at Kinloss and Leuchars are believed to be among contenders for the spaceport, which would open in 2018 and be Britain's answer to Cape Canaveral. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: "I am delighted that the government is pushing forward with its ambitious plans to open a spaceport in the UK by 2018. Spaceports will be key to us opening up the final frontier of commercial space travel. Scotland has a proud association with space exploration. We celebrated Neil Armstrong's Scottish ancestry when he became the first man on the Moon and only last week an amazing Scottish company was responsible for building the UK Space Agency's first satellite. The UK space industry is one of our great success stories and I am sure there will be a role for Scotland to play in the future."
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Scotland Could Become Home To Britain's First Spaceport

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  • by jellomizer (103300) on Monday July 14, 2014 @04:13AM (#47447231)

    Don't they try putting launching sites further south.
    1. They are warmer and you don't need to de-ice your craft.
    2. Uses less fuel as the earth is spinning faster

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      It will be mostly for suborbital flights and non-equatorial orbits though, so the earth's spin is of limited use.
      • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday July 14, 2014 @04:53AM (#47447309)

        It's of a lot of use if you're aiming to leave earth orbit though, for interplanetary probes. A site this far north is really good for polar orbits and that's about it. Even the ISS isn't that heavily inclined - you could get there from Scotland, but it'd use more fuel than a launch from further south. That's why the ISS is supplied from Guiana Space Center: It's in Europe*, so politically suitable, while still being close to the equator.

        *It's in Europe the same way Hawaii is in the USA. It may be geographically remote, but legally and politically it's still France.

        • by magarity (164372)

          I always thought the British should launch from St Helena to be closer to the equator.

    • by Rashdot (845549) on Monday July 14, 2014 @04:28AM (#47447267)

      Yes, but these are politicians performing a carrot and stick maneuver on Scotland.

    • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Monday July 14, 2014 @04:54AM (#47447323)

      Indeed - and having stayed there, I can confirm the weather around Kinloss is usually awful.

      Sounds like a "make work" effort at this very remote location. At least if something blows up on the pad or shortly after launch there's not much around to damage.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R... [wikipedia.org]

      • Does the UK have the same 'economic interest wrapped in the flag' rituals surrounding potential military base closings that the US does? (I'd assume so; but I don't know.) If so, the base's post-cold-war use patterns certainly look like those of a base in search of a mission... On the plus side, if any of the rumblings about radium and mustard gas having been improperly landfilled in the area are true, they'll barely notice an extra dash of hydrazine in the local water supply.
      • by peragrin (659227) on Monday July 14, 2014 @05:31AM (#47447419)

        It gets better, in 2 months Scotland votes to decide if it wants to leave the UK. does anyone think that a site will be chosen that might suddenly no longer be part of the UK?

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          Doesn't this seem like something from Yes Minister or Yes Prime Minister. A "spaceport" in Scotland...

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      It's Britain, you can only go so much further south and still be building in your own country. ;)

    • by dbIII (701233)
      Yes but there's an important election looming.
    • by jabuzz (182671)

      Because both Leuchars and Kinloss are such cold spots that you regularly need to do deicing. Living just a couple of miles/kilometres from Leuchars I can tell you now deicing would be less of a problem than at Cape Canaveral.

      • by Gonoff (88518)
        I went to boarding school in St Andrews and used to watch planes take off from Leuchars and wonder how they managed to cope with the wind!
    • A proper kilt...will keep the ice off the space craft.

      No "true Scotsman" rocket would launch without one!

    • by Albanach (527650)

      While Kinloss is certainly quite far north, you have to account for the warming effect of the ocean and particularly the gulf stream. Scotland is more wet than cold as a result, with the average low [eldoradoco...eather.com] being above freezing year round.

      I don't know how big an issue cloud cover and rain would be, but the temperature associated with latitude is probably less of an issue. The latitude itself isn't far off that of the Kodiak Launch Complex [wikipedia.org] in Alaska.

    • by Solandri (704621)
      Without getting into whether Scotland is an appropriate site for a spaceport... Orbits can be broadly divided into two categories - equatorial and polar.

      Equatorial orbits are aligned close to the equator. The most useful one are geosynchronous (slight inclination so its ground track is a small figure-8 called an amalemma [wikipedia.org]) or geostationary (zero inclination so they stay above the same spot on the equator). The satellites stay above the same general spot on earth, so are always "visible" to ground statio
  • by zacherynuk (2782105) on Monday July 14, 2014 @04:14AM (#47447233)
    We'll give you SPACESHIPS if you stay! (promise)
  • Hardly viable... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wdi (142463) on Monday July 14, 2014 @04:15AM (#47447235)

    Most of the commercial launches want equatorial orbits, and for that you want to launch as near to the equator as possible. As far as polar orbits for research satellites are concerned there is already the Kiruna site, which is fully equipped and at a better location for monitoring polar orbits. Polar orbits for secret missions? Countries involved in this will want to launch from their own turf. And space tourism? Does not exist yet.

    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday July 14, 2014 @04:59AM (#47447341)

      Secret missions possibly. The UK government might want a domestic launch site, rather than have to entrust France with all their secret missions.

      Or it might be, as many speculate, pure politics: This isn't coming from down London, this is being pushed by Scottish politicians. A big, expensive, high-tech project like that could do much to showcase Scotland as an economic success, stressing both to their own citizens and the rest of the world that they don't need the rest of the UK. There's a strong emphesis on the article on spaceplanes, a form of commercial aeronautics still in the development stage - having one of the first useable facilities would be a great prestige.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday July 14, 2014 @05:17AM (#47447393) Journal
        If it is political theatre, 'spaceplanes' are doubly convenient: not only are they the new-and-cutting-edge-hotness, they also have ground requirements much closer to 'airport with atypically long runway' rather than the sort of expensive and specialized apparatus that very large vertically launched systems often do (the KSC's Crawler-Transporter vehicles are undeniably endearing; but not something I'd want to cost-justify...)

        If the PR renders are anything to go by, you can pretty much take an existing airfield, knock down any ugly buildings that the media might see, and replace them with cool, ultramodern equivalents, and you've got a spaceport.
        • by frisket (149522)

          ... they also have ground requirements much closer to 'airport with atypically long runway' ...

          If that's what they need then the Irish government should look at creating a spaceport near Shannon, which has a gigantic runway,suitable both for the frequent US military stopovers to and from the Middle East, and (I was told) for the Shuttle, should an emergency ever have arisen requiring a landing in Europe if Edwards or elsewhere was unavailable. But that may just be local pride :-)

      • Re:Hardly viable... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by rtb61 (674572) on Monday July 14, 2014 @06:15AM (#47447515) Homepage

        In that case the normal move is to place it in Australia. Lots of space, stable government and strong social, economic and political ties. As for secrecy already a part of 5 Eyes, so not a problem there, likely when it comes to 5 Eyes they likely could shift a large percentage of that cost to that alliance, so Australia, Canada, New Zealand UK and US would all chip in to fund it. Reason why Scotland, straight up carrot and stick for the independence vote. How will the Scots receive it, likely pretty badly as a straight up carrot and stick scam.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      You could ask for a Commonwealth like site near the equator.
      or a Commonwealth site with open land to pick up the parts after a test/error.
      e.g. Woomera Test Range in Australia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W... [wikipedia.org]
      As for spy equipment the UK has been happy to use Ariane/Titan /Delta from locations like Kourou in French Guiana. Skynet (satellite) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]
  • Cynically I expect (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Monday July 14, 2014 @04:16AM (#47447239)
    Cynically I expect that this won't happen by 2018, and nobody expects it to. I think it is something that the government thinks will help get a "no" vote to Scottish independence.
    • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday July 14, 2014 @04:21AM (#47447247)
      That said, if Scotland does stay in the UK then it would be the logical choice. Scotland and Northern Ireland are the only parts of the UK where a launch path would not go over another country for a considerable distance.
    • But it's being pushed by Scottish politicians. I still think it's politics, but for the other side: It's a way for Scotland to demonstrate the have high-tech capabilities too, and are more than just an outpost of England.

      • by Chrisq (894406)

        But it's being pushed by Scottish politicians. I still think it's politics, but for the other side: It's a way for Scotland to demonstrate the have high-tech capabilities too, and are more than just an outpost of England.

        It doesn't sound like it, from TFA:

        Ministers want to establish the UK spaceport by 2018 - the first of its kind outside of the US.

        Eight aerodromes have been shortlisted and Scotland has six of the potential locations.

    • Scotland is closer to the dark side of the moon, so the Space-Nazis will bomb Edinburgh first?

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Cynically, I think it has more to do with distracting from the £1Bn in private military spending the government's going to announce at the same conference.

  • They'll get their "wee spacey house" If they would only be good little subjects and vote to remain part of Britain so England can still pretend to be an imperial power?

    Braveheart would not approve.
    • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Monday July 14, 2014 @06:12AM (#47447511) Journal

      If they would only be good little subjects and vote to remain part of Britain so England can still pretend to be an imperial power?

      No, they are free to, you know, pay for it themselves if they vote no rather than yes. No one will attempt to stop and independent Scotland building a spaceport with it's newly minted Caledonian Dollars or whatever currency they end up on.

      In the mean time, do you expect Parliament to simply act as if scotland is already not part of the UK? I suspect you'd be whiny about that too if it happened.

      Or do you expect the UK as a whole to basically put large infrastructure on hold because a small fraction of the population eant to seceed?

      So far, the best reason for a yes vote is because the "West Lothian Question" is blatantly unfair and undemocratic, but since it goes in Scotland's favour, I've not heard a peep out of that crowd about it.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        In the mean time, do you expect Parliament to simply act as if scotland is already not part of the UK?

        Well, they could wait two months to find out if it will remain part of the UK before making grandiose announcements. You know, so it doesn't look like a bribe and has some credibility.

        • Well, they could wait two months to find out if it will remain part of the UK before making grandiose announcements. You know, so it doesn't look like a bribe and has some credibility.

          Where do you draw the line? One month? Two? Four? Eight? Sixteen?

          Precisely how long should the remaining 91% of the population delay the running of the country to satisfy something like 4.5%?

          And are you sure it's a bribe? It's more of a maybe than a promise. Should the UK Pariliament pretend that Scotland never receives the be

          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            Precisely how long should the remaining 91% of the population delay the running of the country to satisfy something like 4.5%?

            Well, since the delay would have only been two months, I'd say at least two months. Considering it's a long term project and a short delay loses us almost nothing, and would actually have saved us time and money spent looking at Scottish sites which may not be available in the near future I'd say that's a reasonable thing to do.

            Should the UK Pariliament pretend that Scotland never receives the benefit of large projects (e.g. the two aircraft carriers, the proposed endpoint of HS2, a bunch of milirary bases and so on) in order to artificially benifit the YES camp? Would that be fair or equally biased?

            Interesting you should mention those things. The SNP has said they would still work with the rest of the UK on HS2. The UK government has threatened to take away all ship building, w

            • Well, since the delay would have only been two months, I'd say at least two months. Considering it's a long term project and a short delay loses us almost nothing, and would actually have saved us time and money spent looking at Scottish sites which may not be available in the near future I'd say that's a reasonable thing to do.

              Perhaps, that seems somewhatarbitrary though. The disruption will be so huge, people seem to be continuing business as usual on the assumption that the vote will be NO.

              Interesting yo

            • by jonbryce (703250)

              Students from Scotland get free tuition. Students from other EU countries get free tuition. Students from other parts of the UK and from outside the EU have to pay for tuition.

      • So far, the best reason for a yes vote is because the "West Lothian Question" is blatantly unfair and undemocratic, but since it goes in Scotland's favour, I've not heard a peep out of that crowd about it.

        Well, I have now. The SNP list this as a reson for independence. I still think it's the best reason, though I think there are better alternatives.

  • Scotland started its space exploration work in the 19th century.The first rocket (see link) encountered some technical difficulties, but we expect to get those sorted out soon. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]
  • by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Monday July 14, 2014 @06:18AM (#47447527) Homepage Journal

    Relax, everyone. This is a non-story; it isn't going to happen, and no-one seriously expects it to.

    We're having a referendum in September on whether to separate from the UK and become an independent nation. The UK government has woken up - very late - to the realisation that it's quite likely to lose, and consequently will also lose its only nuclear submarine base, 90% of its oil revenue, and probably its permanent seat on the UN security council. Consequently they're panicking and offering us all sorts of unlikely bribes. The spaceport won't happen because

    1. If we vote 'yes', it's not going to be an urgent priority of the Scottish government;
    2. if we vote 'no', this and all the other promised bribes will be quietly forgotten.

    So relax. The fact that there's no money and no commercial use for it, and that we're too far from the equator, doesn't matter; no-one seriously intends to build it. It's a media stunt, pure and simple. It isn't going to happen.

    • by gsslay (807818)

      that it's quite likely to lose

      You appear to know something that the opinion polls don't. What is it?

      probably its permanent seat on the UN security council

      Where did you pull this nonsense from?

    • "Quite likely to lose"? In what uninverse? Latest polls show "Yes" trailing by over ten points.

  • The potential for a whole new genre of Scotsman jokes is giving comedians everywhere goose bumps.

  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Monday July 14, 2014 @06:43AM (#47447597) Homepage Journal

    While I was VP for Public Affairs at E'Prime Aerospace, we evaluated various sites for establishing a space port to launch our MX-derived rockets. It turned out that the presence of a military air strip at Ascension Island [google.com] allowed a military jet transport large enough to deliver entire launch vehicles. Of course, the MX system was solid fueled so we didn't have to transport cryogenics long distances, but it would be feasible to set up a LOX facility on the island. There is a particular coastal cliff that is ideal for a launch pad.

  • hahahahaha.
    What a funny ploy.
    What if Scotland actually votes for independence?

  • ...liquid oxygen and used fry oil.

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