The UK government has awarded 5 businesses with feasibility study contracts, worth in total £1.5 million, (€1.8m) to a group of industrial operations in order to evaluate the practicality of mounting orbital or sub-orbital ‘rocket flights’ from the UK.
The five teams are:
– Airbus-Safran Launchers, which as well as looking after the giant Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 rockets, is also keen to build a small satellite launcher as well as working on a space tourism rocket.
– Deimos Space UK, which is developing a vertical launch rocket.
– Lockheed Martin of the US, which wants to build a version of its Athena satellite launch system.
– Virgin Galactic, which is Sir Richard Branson’s company already planning its SpaceShipTwo sub-orbital launcher.
– Orbital Access of the UK, which is working with BAE Systems and Reaction Engines, which proposes using a modified single-stage rocket to orbit system. Coincidentally, the European Space Agency signed an agreement at the UK Farnborough Air Show to provide more than $10 million to Reaction Engines for on-going work with the company’s SABRA rocket engine.
The UK government is on record as saying that it only wants to clear regulatory and legal problems for a UK ‘Spaceport’ and would not itself be investing in the project.