For out-of-this-world news, sign up for the Spaced Out newsletter
We have more newsletters
When you think of blasting into space, NASA or SpaceX may first come to mind, fuelled by American dollars.
The UK, while it has always participated in space exploration, observation and scientific understanding, has never fully dived into the cosmic business.
That is about to change, with the company Space Forge establishing the country’s first and Europe’s only spaceport this summer.
The world is entering a second space race, with Elon Musk heading to Mars, the USA planning a base on the Moon and countries such as China and India blasting off on a regular basis.
It’s an exciting time for anyone that wonders what’s out there, but space exploration always equals money, and the new UK spaceport is no exception.
In the current cost of living crisis, can such an endeavour really be justified?
How much will the UK spaceport cost?
Space Forge, the company behind the UK spaceport, managed to raise £7.6 million of international seed funding last year in the hopes of getting its rockets off the ground.
It is unknown if the project has received additional funding to establish the base, but that is just the starting costs.
To get a singular rocket off our ball of rock and into space, it requires a significant amount of planning, engineering and of course, fuel.
However, according to the company, the costs of such a feat have plummeted in recent years, making each flight more affordable.
Andrew Bacon, a co-founder of Space Forge, said: "The price of launch has come down massively. Typically, it used to cost $20,000 (£16,500) per kilogram. These days you can get as low as $1,000 (£830).
"There are materials out there worth way more. Nickel-based alloys used in aircraft turbines can cost $100,000 a kg. So, the economics (of space manufacturing) start to work because the price of launch has come down so much."
The rockets will launch off the back of Virgin Orbit aircraft, making the costs significantly cheaper than traditional vertical take-offs.
The company also says it will be a healthy boost to the local economy, with it expecting to employ 150 people and a further 240 through the supply chain.
Where is the UK spaceport based?
The airport will be based in Cornwall in South West England.
Specifically, it will be stationed at Newquay airport with the first planned launch set for September.
A Virgin Orbit Boeing 747 will take off from the same runway used for holiday journeys, but it’ll have a rocket under its wing which it will release at 35,000ft.
Andrew said it will thrust the UK into a “true space superpower,” with these rocket satellites able to bring back commercial quantities of materials from space back to the UK.
What is the point of the UK spaceport?
Resources may be depleting on the Earth, but there is an infinite bounty just beyond our planet.
The hope is Space Forge can take a fraction of these resources and bring them back to be used, sold and so on.
As Andrew explained: "Being able to launch from your home country is going to make a big difference.
"If you want to build a reliable, sustainable supply chain based in space, you can't be flying to the other side of the world to source your materials when you want to make something.
"You want to launch and return here and use those products where they are needed."
How the satellites will return to Earth is still secret, with the company not revealing its technology.
Source: Read Full Article