Any hopes Fife had of playing host to the UK’s first spaceport appear to be dwindling fast due to a lack of interest, The Courier understands.
The former RAF base at Leuchars had been pinpointed as a potential temporary location for the out-of-this-world facility as the UK Government drew up a shortlist of sites from which tourists and commercial satellites could be launched into orbit over the coming years.
However, it now looks as if a licensing system will be used for suitable sites to apply for a spaceport licence, rather than a site being specifically chosen by the authorities.
With Glasgow’s Prestwick Airport signing an agreement with Houston Spaceport last month which will see it benefit from the Texas city’s links with NASA, it is understood that sources close to the Fife bid have all but resigned themselves to defeat.
Representatives from Fife Council made their pitch for a self-styled “St Andrews Spaceport”, which would be housed at Leuchars, at a Royal Aeronautical Society conference in London last February, when they suggested a Fife spaceport would be within easy reach for 45% of Scotland’s population and accessible for Scotland’s top universities.
Leuchars’ runway on the military aerodrome would be an ideal site as it would meet environmental and weather requirements as well as being accessible for staff and visitors and away from densely populated areas, the Fife team also argued.
Iain Shirlaw, from Fife Council’s Invest in Fife team, said its stance remained unchanged but confirmed there has been no appetite as yet from potential investors.
“We remain committed to support any possibility of developing the spaceport at Leuchars but have not received notice of any formal approach,” he said.
Those behind the Prestwick bid say a spaceport could be operational with just £1 million of investment, as a memorandum of understanding was signed with a delegation from Houston Spaceport and the Rice Space Institute last month.
It will allow both parties to share best practice for commercial space launch activities, operation, safety and environmental standards and would enable the Prestwick to use NASA technology, research and resources in a commercial environment, and could also lead to customer referrals between the two spaceports.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the UK’s Department for Transport and the UK Space Agency are expected to reveal more plans about a regulatory framework for UK spaceports later this year.