Half a million pound boost for Kintyre spaceport development

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Plans for a Kintyre spaceport have taken a giant step forward after Machrihanish Airbase Community Company (MACC) was awarded almost half a million pounds from the UK Space Agency.

Chris Skidmore, UK Minister for Science, announced a package of £488,000 for MACC, the company which owns the former RAF base, funding which will be used to explore horizontal spaceport development services from the site using UK-based space technology companies.

The project will be led by MACC with consultancy support from UK Launch Services Limited and Grey Consultants Ltd, and industry support from TAO Tech UK Ltd, specialists in high altitude platforms and pseudo-satellites (HAPs), and Reaction Engines Limited, the UK’s foremost developer of hypersonic engines and one of the UK’s 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain.

A MACC spokesperson said: ‘We are delighted to have received this funding from the UK Space Agency to develop our spaceport plans. The team we have will bring a huge wealth of experience and technical expertise to the project to allow us to develop a robust, sustainable and deliverable plan for the establishment of spaceport-related activities on site.’

UK Launch Services Limited will advise on market and flight safety requirements for the rapidly growing commercial spaceflight sector. Grey Consultants will provide a detailed facility review for the site’s infrastructure, the environmental and sustainability analysis of any potential development on the site and importantly a community engagement plan. TAO Tech UK Ltd is an experienced HAPs manufacturer and operator which will work on establishing complementary range services utilising their existing technology as well as developing a concept for HAP launch of micro-satellites.

Reaction Engines Limited, a leading contender for the next generation of hypersonic flight and space access vehicles, will assist MACC to explore the feasibility of using the Campbeltown site for future Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) technology flight test operations. The study will also assess the potential for down-range landing support operations to future operational SABRE vehicles.

The project will run until the end of March 2020. The outputs of the project will provide a feasibility assessment for the use of the spaceport for a range of spaceflight related activities, long-term the projects aim is to encourage the development of a spaceport cluster centred on an aerodrome which has the longest runway in Scotland.

In total, the UK Space Agency awarded £1.3 million to help develop horizontal spaceports across the UK – £499,811 to Snowdonia Aerospace for the Snowdonia Spaceport Development Plan; and £306,480 to Cornwall Council for an Accelerated Business Development and Research Project at Spaceport Cornwall, in addition’s to MACC’s award.

Mr Skidmore MP said: ‘The incredible strength of the UK space industry and the contribution it makes to life across the country is inspiring. It provides us with innovative solutions to complex problems and creating high-skilled jobs for more than 40,000 people.

‘There are huge opportunities as space becomes more commercial, and to meet them we must harness the inspirational effect space has on young people and bring even more people into this fast-growing sector.’