Friday, 22 August 2014

(13) Cape Cymru ( #UKSpaceport )

Don't read any further if you think £400 billion is a trivial amount. That is how much the worldwide space industry is predicted to be worth by 2030 if it carries on growing by about 7% a year as it has been doing even during the recent recession. The UK has set its sights on capturing 10% of this market and is planning to build a spaceport at one of eight possible shortlisted locations. In the short term the spaceport would need to be able to accommodate suborbital space tourism flights that are likely to start within the next two years.
The sites shortlisted include one in England, one in Wales and six in Scotland. Ideally the location would need minimal investment, have favourable weather, be away from populated areas and crowded airspace but also be reasonably easily accessible. At first glance there doesn't seem to be an ideal Goldilocks location in the UK. So why not Wales?

A cynic might say that the promise of a spaceport for Scotland is an incentive for Scotland to remain part of the UK and that the site in North Wales (Llandebr) is just a token inclusion. Few people would expect Wales to be chosen and no one would be surprised if a site in Scotland or England was eventually chosen. Billions of pounds can be spent on infrastructure projects outside Wales such as HS2 or Crossrail but Wales has been conditioned to expect to fail. Some Space Luddites might even dismiss the coming inevitable space revolution as unimportant and irrelevant but this is far from the truth.

About 30,000 people are currently employed in the space sector in the UK but this is just part of a much larger aerospace industry which is the second largest civil aerospace industry in the world. Just over 20,000 are employed in Wales in aerospace and defence related industries. Universities with research and development linked to hi tech companies are replacing the old heavy industry engines of the first industrial revolution and Llandebr is ideally situated and ready to serve as a catalyst.

You can analyse the population density, weather, length of runway, ease of access and many other factors but Llandebr has more to offer. The clue is in the name, Space Tourism. Imagine you are driving towards North Wales. The roads steadily narrow eventually winding their way through the Snowdonia National Park until you reach a place where the sky meets the sea. The place where you will leave Earth, Llandebr spaceport (Cape Cymru). You can watch the sunset over the sea while you contemplate the enormity of the next step in your journey but not before you and your companions make the most of all the other attractions North Wales has to offer. Wales has been voted top country in the world to visit in 2014 by readers of one of the planet’s leading guide books. There are mountains, castles, gold mines, caves, mock Italian villages, unspoilt beaches and wide open spaces that have to be seen to be fully appreciated. The Welsh flag even has dragon on it. Surely that on its own should be reason enough to build a spaceport in Wales.

You have to ask yourself, do you want to live in a country that reminisces about the fading glory years of the industrial revolution or do you want to live in a country that looks to and helps build the future and takes part in the next revolution?
The space revolution.   

Taffanaut Log Supplemental (Stardate 68942.2)
In March 2015 the UK government reduced the shortlist of eight aerodromes that could host a UK spaceport to six. Two Scottish sites were ruled out due to "operational defence reasons". Another Scottish site was included in the list but only as a possible temporary location. This left five potential locations with one additional possible temporary location.

Stornoway airport was ruled out by the owners who also owned Campbeltown.

Without going into too much detail this effectively left -

   Glasgow Prestwick

Remaining sites have been invited to submit their cases for becoming the first UK spaceport. A decision is due to be made sometime in late 2016.

I am slightly biased but I still believe that Llanbedr has ticked most of the boxes for the real decision makers.

"All spaceport selection criteria are equal but some are more equal than others."