Fife has confirmed it will “fly the flag” for Leuchars as the race to host Europe’s first spaceport heats up in the New Year.
A major one-day conference is due to be held in London by the Royal Aeronautical Society which aims to look at some of the challenges involved with setting up a commercial spaceport and learn lessons from foreign facilities which are already up and running most notably in the USA.
Amid hopes that a spaceport could start operating tourist flights into orbit in 2018, six UK sites remain on the UK Government’s shortlist and Leuchars, while not thought to be suitable for a permanent spaceport, has been included on that list as a potential temporary site.
There had been fears that Fife would not be represented at the February 3 event, but Robin Presswood, head of service at Fife Council, has now assured campaigners that the local authority has accepted an invitation by the society to attend.
“It is exciting that Leuchars is in the race for UK Spaceport,” he stressed.
“There were eight airfields that originally met the Department for Transport’s criteria and two dropped out for operational reasons.
“In November the Government clarified the sort of craft that could use a spaceport and of course this week as Tim Peake started his time in the International Space Station, the government issued the UK National Space Policy.
“The space technology industry is a growth sector in the UK having grown from £6.5 billion in 2007 to £11.8 billion in 2014.
“The sector is well represented, with Scotland employing about 15% of the UK’s employment in the space technology sector.
“And with active research centres at the universities in St Andrews, Dundee, and Edinburgh, and key companies in the aerospace sector, Fife is well placed to benefit from this growth.
“The process of establishing a spaceport is a long term project, and there is very strong competition from other locations.
“But even though Leuchars isn’t the main contender at this time, it is important to fly the flag for Leuchars and the space technology sector in Fife.”
Campbeltown, Prestwick and Stornoway are among the other Scottish contenders after airfields at Lossiemouth and Kinloss were ruled out, while Newquay in England and Llanbedr Airport in Wales complete the six-strong shortlist.
The Department of Transport is working on the specification of what it wants a spaceport to be and will publish a report within weeks, with a site likely to be chosen before the end of 2016.