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UK News Former top secret Machrihanish air base wins £488,000 spaceport funding

13:50  27 september  2019
13:50  27 september  2019 Source:   scotsman.com

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Royal Air Force Machrihanish or RAF Machrihanish (IATA: CAL, ICAO: EGEC) is a former Royal Air Force station located near the town of Machrihanish and 3.5 miles (5.6 km) west of Campbeltown, at the tip of the Kintyre peninsula, Argyll and Bute, in Scotland.

The former top secret Machrihanish air base has been awarded nearly £500,000 to develop its spaceport plans - but rivals Prestwick says it hasn't been left behind.

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The Argyll site has received UK Government funding as part of £1.3 million shared with other potential spaceport sites in Cornwall and Snowdonia.

However, Prestwick said its bid for cash to establish a site for horizontal launches had been "shortlisted for further consideration".

The £488,000 funding for Machrihanish is to develop its "spaceport cluster plan centred on an aerodrome with the longest runway in Scotland", the UK Government said.

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The former RAF base's runway is nearly two miles long and one of the longest in Europe.

It was built during the Cold War and used by Vulcan bombers, with the US Navy establishing a naval aviation weapons facility there in 1968.

Snowdonia Aerospace received £499,811 "to create a centre for space R&D, training and satellite launch", while £306,480 goes to Cornwall Council for an "accelerated business development and research project" at Spaceport Cornwall for "future flight technologies".

A spokesperson from Prestwick Airport said: “Our funding bid to the UK Space Agency has been shortlisted for further consideration. We await the final decision.”

Three years ago, it reckoned it was in pole position to be granted the first spaceport licence by the UK.

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It was the base for all Space Shuttle launches and most of their runway landings. The Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, is the major European spaceport , with satellite launches that benefit from the location 5 degrees north of the equator.

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The UK Government said the funding was on top of up to £7.85m it intended to "invest in developing facilities and operational capabilities at Spaceport Cornwall with Virgin Orbit".

It said: "Once operational, spaceports have the potential to create commercial space launch services in the UK, giving our world-leading satellite industry access to space from UK soil for the first time and creating high-skilled jobs in the surrounding areas."

UK science minister Chris Skidmore said: "A truly strategic approach to space is needed now more than ever and we must develop our national space capabilities, while strengthening our international partnerships, to take full advantage of opportunities like satellite launch from the UK."

READ MORE: New spaceport could launch around 2,000 small satellites

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