Leuchars could become space port by 2018

Photo credit: wikimedia.commons

RAF Leuchars has been named as a potential site for Britain’s first commercial space port.

Until recently a fully functioning RAF base, the site is currently transitioning to the army. Now, however, in plans set out by government ministers, Fife could become a leading centre for space travel.

Eight sites were set out as possible locations for the space port, which will be used as a launchpad for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic commercial space flights. Six of these are in Scotland, one is in north Wales and one is in Cornwall. The validity of the Scottish sites in the event of independence remains unclear.

The selected site would become the first commercial space port outside of the US and would aim to be fully operational by 2018.

Branson’s only current site is in New Mexico. Its first flight is expected to take place by the end of this year.

Fife council’s deputy leader, Lesley Laird, told The Courier: “For Leuchars to have made the grade is good news.

“The space industry clearly is an area the UK government is looking to grow significantly – it could be worth £40bn and provide 100,000 jobs – and if we can get some of that growth it has to be a very positive thing.”

But Sir Menzies Campbell, the North East Fife MP, signalled caution. He told The Courier: “This is a novel proposal but it is important to remember that Leuchars is only one of several possible sites that have been mentioned.

“Any civilian use of Leuchars would have to be measured against its primary purpose as a military base and the security questions which inevitably arise in relation to that function.”


  1. Obviously no rockets would be launched from Leuchars, rather they would launch single stage to orbit spaceplanes like the UK’s Skylon concept or suborbital spaceplanes like Virgin Galactic’s spaceshipone. These take off like normal planes and turn their rockets on in the upper atmosphere so we would likely notice no difference, except for the fact that they’d be launching cool spaceships down the road from us.

    Leuchars would be unsuitable for rockets due to its location amid pretty dense population areas. Also there’s not too much space to build launchpad but the runways would be fine for spaceplanes to take off and land from. It’s location makes launching satellites into polar orbit pretty easy which would be pretty great for the UK economy.


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