Snowdonia Aerospace Centre in Llanbedr is taking steps towards becoming one of the UK’s first commercial spaceports.
A delegation, led by Snowdonia Aerospace Centre, recently attended a major Space Agency Conference in London, where they outlined their case as a preferred location. The team is now receiving interest from private sector providers looking to enable frequent and low cost access to space from the UK by 2020.
Representatives from Snowdonia Aerospace Centre, Aerospace Wales, QinetiQ and Welsh Government attended Launch UK: Igniting the UK’s new space age at the Royal Aeronautical Society last month. The event showcased the progress being made towards small-satellite launches and sub-orbital flights in the UK, and brought together representatives from other potential UK spaceport locations, as well as spaceflight vehicle operators and the UK space manufacturing sector.
Snowdonia Aerospace Centre Chief Executive, Lee Paul said: “Our Snowdonia Spaceport team was well received at the Space Agency event in London, and we are excited to have the support of the private sector and look forward to exploring new opportunities with interested parties.”
“The past 18 months have been about creating the right operating environment and establishing a world class facility. Completing the first phase of investment has prepared us for the future and we hope that new developments in 2017 and beyond will mean that Snowdonia Aerospace Centre is even more appealing to world-wide investment.”
Plans for enhanced site access will be shortly submitted by Gwynedd Council to the Snowdonia National Park Authority, which – if approved – would improve access to the Llanbedr site and provide a catalyst for further investment and development.
CEO John Whalley, who delivered a sharp presentation to outline Wales’ sectoral strengths in Aerospace and Space and the site’s key credentials said: “Our coastal location, unrivalled segregated airspace - unique in the UK – and low level of aircraft movements make Snowdonia Aerospace Centre a very strong contender for a UK Spaceport. It meets all the key criteria, and its relatively central location in the UK also makes it the most easily accessible to organisations across the whole of the UK.”
The Centre is also a world-class centre for emerging technologies, including an integral element of the unique Remotely Piloted Air Systems (RPAS) testing environment in West Wales, with global defence prime QinetiQ and Snowdonia Aerospace Centre working in partnership to integrate state of the art airspace management with ground infrastructure and support services. This Centre of Excellence for the testing and evaluation of unmanned systems is wholly complementary with Spaceplane operations, and as a mixed use site offers low and sustainable operating costs.
Lee Paul added: “We observed real interest in what’s happening at Llanbedr, leading to a number of very encouraging discussions with end users, international spaceport operators and satellite launch companies as well as regulators, UK Government and UKSA.”
Dr. John Idris Jones, Chair of the Snowdonia Enterprise Zone also stressed the Llanbedr site’s potential: “Boosted by its Enterprise Zone status, Snowdonia Aerospace Centre is able to compete on a global stage by making the most of its unique characteristics – it’s ticking all the boxes and seems the perfect low cost location for spaceplane operations’.
The space sector is an important economic driver that is central to the UK’s new Industrial Strategy. The Launch UK: Igniting the UK’s new space age event coincided with the launch of the Spaceflight Bill, which was delivered to the House of Commons and the House of Lords to facilitate and regulate commercial spaceflight.
Joint enterprises - consisting of at least one potential UK spaceport and one small-satellite launch or sub-orbital flight operator – have been invited to bid for UK Space Agency grants worth £10 million to help develop spaceflight capabilities, such as building spaceport infrastructure or adapting launch vehicle technology for use in the UK. The closing date is 28th April 2017.