By Ian McConnell

PRESTWICK Spaceport has progressed into the planning application stage of its proposed development, as it aims to conduct its first rocket launch by the end of 2023.

Glasgow Prestwick Airport, the lead partner in Prestwick Spaceport, said yesterday that the submission of a proposal of application notice was “the first step in the planning process for Prestwick Spaceport and signals the intent to apply for planning permission in early 2022”.

It is proposed Prestwick would offer “horizontal” or “air” launches, in which an aircraft carries a rocket containing small satellites a long distance to high altitude above the ocean. Once safely beyond inhabited areas and above the densest layer of the atmosphere, the rocket would leave the aircraft, ignite its engines, and carry its payload to orbit.

READ MORE: Ayr Playhouse building exceeds guide price at Acuitus auction

Launch operations would consist mainly of processing rockets and their payloads, loading them on to a launch aircraft, and then conventional aircraft take-offs from the existing runways, Glasgow Prestwick Airport noted.

To provide horizontal launch capability, which the airport declared had never been accessible anywhere in Europe, Prestwick Spaceport has signed a memorandum of understanding with UK company Astraius.

Glasgow Prestwick Airport said Astraius would launch rockets from standard transport aircraft that require no modification and would be able to place small satellites, such as “shoebox-sized” CubeSats, into a variety of orbits. Noting these satellites could 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 airport said Prestwick “is the ideal location for the development and operation of reusable horizontal space launch systems with safe over-water take-off paths”. It added that existing infrastructure around the planned spaceport would “provide immediate technical and engineering support to any new space launch operator”.

READ MORE: Brexit: Ian McConnell: A year on, we’re all reaping what the Brexiters sowed

Glasgow Prestwick Airport noted the proposed spaceport development was part of wider aerospace and space industry plans being funded with £32 million from the UK Government, £30m from the Scottish Government, and £18m from South Ayrshire Council as part of the £251m, 10-year Ayrshire Growth Deal. The airport, owned by the Scottish Government, cited potential for the creation of up to 4,000 jobs.

Peter Henderson, leader of South Ayrshire Council, said: “Prestwick Spaceport has achieved another milestone by filing a POAN for its development. 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.”

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: Brexit could have taken many forms. Cheshire Cat Boris Johnson chose this one

Zoe Kilpatrick, commercial director at Glasgow Prestwick Airport, said: “We are delighted to see the next stage of the Prestwick Spaceport being developed. We are building an industry in Ayrshire which will create jobs and investment for years to come.”

She added: “2022 will see further developments as we partner with more organisations to grow and expand our space capabilities here at Glasgow Prestwick Airport. It is a very exciting time to be involved with the project and I look forward to seeing progress made over the coming months as we approach our first launch in 2023.”

Glasgow Prestwick Airport said: “Horizontal launch from Prestwick will give Ayrshire the opportunity to be at the forefront of satellite launches not only in the UK but in Europe as a whole.”