The Civil Aviation Authority has shortlisted Campbeltown, Prestwick and Stornoway airports to host the UK’s first spaceport, after narrowing down the field of possible locations to five in a consultation. Prestwick Airport, currently owned by The Scottish Government, and a strategically positioned airport on the Clyde Estuary coast in Ayrshire welcomed todays announcement from Westminster along with South Ayrshire Council which establishes the framework around which the selection of the first UK spaceport will be made.
One of the key drivers of the push is the well established notion that the country needs to have a fully operational Spaceport by 2018 in order to further vitalise the blooming UK space industry. The new location will become a centre of operations for the launch of new high tech instrumentation and satellite based technology and vehicles. Furthermore it may well become a major technological hub for all UK companies involved in the space industry providing launch and maintenance facilitiues for such companies as Virgin Galactic and Spacex.
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.
"We have an experienced high-tech aerospace workforce and a substantial aviation and high-tech engineering industrial footprint. Our Scottish Enterprise incentive zone supports the growth of the space industry. Our universities in Glasgow and Ayr are at the forefront of space and aerospace engineering research and teaching. While we have safe over-water flight paths, we also have over 4m people within a 2 hour drive giving us access to the widest range of specialists and expertise. This combination of features is unique amongst the sites being considered and positions Prestwick as the leading candidate to become the UK's first Spaceport."
Andrew Miller, Chairman of Glasgow Prestwick Airport, said: "Winning the Spaceport for Scotland and Prestwick will create a platform for revenue growth and industrial development for the next thirty years and more. It is a truly strategic development that will underpin jobs and growth regionally and nationally. Prestwick is the only site that can release this potential. It will drive transformational change both at the airport and local level and also in Scotland and the UK as a whole."
Prestwick Spaceport Director Stuart McIntyre said: "We have been working hard to structure our programme since the consultation programme closed last October. We have a detailed understanding of what is required and have already begun our bid preparations.
"We have secured strong support from our stakeholders in the region as well as internationally. We are determined to offer the global space industry a highly capable facility that will exploit Scotland's perfect location for polar orbit launches and space programme research and development. Prestwick will sit at the heart of an end-to-end space industrial capability allowing commercial space application developers to realise their designs, launch them to orbit and distribute their service to their global customers."
Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council and Chair of the Glasgow Prestwick Airport and Aerospace Stakeholder Group, applauded Prestwick's bid: "Glasgow Prestwick Airport has extensive developed facilities and the ideal infrastructure and resources to deliver a first-class spaceport for the UK. This includes a significant amount of land for aerospace and spaceport industries. With direct motorway access, we are less than half an hour from Glasgow and easily accessible from all parts of the UK – you really couldn't ask for anywhere better to fulfil this important role. Aerospace is a major part of our lives in Ayrshire and we look forward to making the Glasgow Prestwick spaceport a reality and welcoming the space industry to this wonderful part of the world."
The UK Government selection programme is expected to run until October 2015 with Prestwick one of the possible locations being considered alongside Newquay in Cornwall, Llanbedr in Wales and a number of alternative Scottish sites.