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Scotland: Prestwick advances spaceport plan

January 11, 2022

By Chris Forrester

Scotland’s South Ayrshire Council in Prestwick, near Glasgow, has started formal submissions to see its existing airport converted and expanded to allow for space-based activity as part of the Prestwick Spaceport development.

The formal Proposal of Application Notice (POAN) is the first step in the planning process for Prestwick Spaceport and signals the intent to apply for planning permission in early 2022. The submission of the POAN follows the local authority’s submission of an Environmental Impact Assessment Screening Report last year that confirms that Prestwick’s space ambitions will not result in any significant adverse effects to the environment.

Launches from Prestwick will occur using horizontal or air launch, wherein an aircraft will carry a rocket containing smallsats a long distance to high altitude above the ocean. Once safely beyond inhabited areas and above the densest layer of the atmosphere, the rocket leaves the aircraft, ignites its engines and carries its payload to orbit.

The system is already utilised by Sir Richard Branson’s rocket launching business but this application focuses on a Memorandum of Understanding signed with Astraius, a UK-based business that will launch rockets from standard transport aircraft that require no modification and will be able to place smallsats into a variety of orbits.

These smallsats can be used for a host of applications, such as monitoring climate change or tracking food supply chains to ensure that products in supermarkets are sustainably sourced. The city of Glasgow already designs and manufactures more cubesats than any city outside of the US.

Launch operations at Prestwick will consist mainly of processing rockets and their payloads, loading them onto a launch aircraft and then conventional aircraft take-offs will occur from the existing airport runways.

Prestwick aims to conduct the first rocket launch by the end of 2023, a goal supported by the Ayrshire Growth Deal, a multi-million-pound funding package that was signed last year. £80 million of the Growth Deal is dedicated to securing Ayrshire’s future as a leading region in the UK’s aerospace and space engineering industries.

Councillor Peter Henderson, Leader of South Ayrshire Council, said, “Prestwick Spaceport has achieved another milestone by filing a POAN for its development. The POAN starts the process for Prestwick Spaceport submitting its formal planning application later this year. This follows on from Prestwick Spaceport securing a launch provider, Astraius, in September last year. By securing a launch partner and beginning the planning process, South Ayrshire is on its way to establishing Prestwick Spaceport and ensuring an exciting future for our local communities and making South Ayrshire part of the global space economy.”

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