It is being heralded as bringing the opportunity for ordinary people to follow in the footsteps of astronauts like Tim Peake and travel into space.

But the UK’s first spaceport - which looks likely to be based in Scotland - will also bring new advances in technology that cand be used for everything from tracking pirates in the open seas to developing fridges which automatically fill with food.

Plans are underway to develop a facility for space travel in the UK, with six locations in Scotland – including Prestwick, Campbeltown, Leuchars and Stornoway airports - in the running to host the site.

All the candidate sites will present their bid at a conference being held by the Royal Aeronautical Society in London next month, which will also be attended by UK government officials and industry experts.

While commercial space tourism is the most talked about use of the spaceport, the potential to launch many more communications satellites into space is being hailed as one of the biggest benefits.

It is expected to revolutionise the ability to closely monitoring events on the ground from space – such as the progress of a flood or a ship's movements – as well as vastly increasing the capacity of the internet.

Dr Geoff Busswell, vice-chair of Royal Aeronautical Society Space Specialist Group and chair of the organising committee for Spaceport UK conference, said: “Small satellites are very useful – they allow cost effective demonstration of new technology for use on a subsequent larger satellite, or the ability to form satellite constellations that gives you a much higher frequency of observation over a given location of interest.

“This can be very important if you are, for example, tracking the evolution of a flood or the movement of a ship which has been hijacked by pirates.”

He added another potential use of small satellites would be for greater internet access – highlighting a plan outlined by firm OneWeb last year to build a ‘constellation’ of 648 satellites to give the entire planet connectivity, instead of only half of it.

Busswell, who is also head of business development for European space institutions at technology firm Telespazio VEGA UK, said the long-term aim of the UK’s spaceport was to grow the country’s space industry from the current £11.8billion in revenues to around £40billion by 2030.

The majority of this – around £37billion – is expected to come from services involving information satellites.

He said: “Space tourism is what people hear about most, and that is important and is certainly what captures the public’s imagination.

“But a sovereign satellite launch capability would have very high impact on the UK space industry – and we also have world class expertise in the building of small satellites in this country."

Robin Sampson, spacecraft sales manager at Glasgow-based firm Clyde Space, which designed and launched Scotland’s first satellite, said having more satellites in space would help lower the cost of providing telecoms services.

He said: “There are all kinds of statistics about future internet usage, but one which is really interesting is that there is soon going to be something like ten devices per human connected to the internet.

“It could be your fridge will be connected to the internet, or it will be a coffee machine in a café which will send an automated SMS and create an automated delivery.”

Sampson said improved internet capacity could also allow the development of telemedicine in remote communities to enable ‘real time’ GP consultations to take place via the web for example.

He said one current issue was a “huge global bottleneck” of capacity to launch satellites and it was difficult for private firms to access facilities in places like the US, Russia, China and India.

“There is no shortage of application ideas and technology ideas, but being able to affordably launch into space really is the main problem we have at the moment for the industry,” he said.

“Whether the spaceport is in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK isn’t a major consideration for us at the moment, as wherever it is it will still be closer than Kazakhstan, which is where we last launched.

“But there is no doubt there would be a lot of benefit having it as close as possible and we would seek to support any of the local bids as we could.”

The UK government has previously indicated it will announce the location of the spaceport this year, with the aim of having it up and running by 2018.

Robert Waters, head of industrial strategy at the UK Space Agency, said: “We do recognise the challenges with regard to finalising the location of any spaceport in the UK are numerous and complex, and the Government is working with industry, operators and shortlisted spaceport locations to consider a range of options that will best deliver the ambition of a spaceport within this Parliament.”