UK 'yet to embrace space tourism'

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UK 'yet to embrace space tourism'

Postby BenJy! on Sat Jul 04, 2009 12:20 pm


Virgin Galactic spacecrafts
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Current rules would preclude Virgin from running space trips from the UK

The UK is ill-prepared to exploit the emerging commercial spaceflight sector, says the president of Virgin Galactic.

Will Whitehorn said Britain lacked the regulatory framework that would help the industry grow but which would also ensure the necessary safety standards.

Speaking at a space tourism conference in London, he said current rules would prevent Virgin launches from the UK.

Galactic expects to start taking fare-paying passengers on short space hops in the next few years.

Its "Eve" carrier aircraft will lift a rocket plane to over 50,000ft (15km) before releasing it to make a dramatic climb more than 60 miles (100km) above the Earth. Virgin plans to put satellites in space with the service, as well as people.

The Anglo-American company will operate initially from a dedicated spaceport in New Mexico, US, but then hopes to spread its operations across the globe.

'Vision needed'

Mr Whitehorn said Sweden and the Middle East were the likely locations for these other ventures - but not the UK, currently.

Lossiemouth in Scotland has put itself forward as a possible spaceport, and the Virgin boss said it had great potential. Unfortunately, it was held back by inadequate legislation, he told the conference.

"Lossiemouth would be an ideal location for polar injection of satellites. It could give Britain its own responsive space capability. But the one thing that America has that nobody else has - although the Swedes are close to it - is the legislation which allows our system to be built and operated.

"That was the vision the United States fulfilled with the Commercialisation of Space Amendment Act, and a vision [the UK] is failing to fulfil at the moment.

"The space industry in Britain should be saying to both government and the opposition, 'we've got to have some legislation to allow the new world of space to operate in this country'."

Mr Whitehorn said that the UK had some of the most innovative space companies in the world and they needed to be released into this exciting future.

See the Eve carrier aircraft on one of its recent test flights

The US Federal Aviation Authority has already developed rules to regulate commercial spaceflight activity like Virgin's, with tourists able to fly under an "informed consent" principle which means they waive their rights to litigation if there is an accident.

The approach obviates the need for what are essentially experimental space vehicles to go through a lengthy and costly process of certification, as happens with new airliners, which could hold back the development of the fledgling industry.

The British government last week initiated a panel to review space activity in the UK. The Space Innovation and Growth Team (IGT) will attempt to identify key trends and then list the actions industry and government need to take if they want to fully exploit the changes that are coming over the next 20 years.

Tourism in a burgeoning commercial space sector is expected to be one of those trends and Virgin Galactic has agreed to help develop the IGT blueprint.

"We want to see a much more innovative environment for investment in space in this country. We want to see it begin to mirror some of the exciting things that are happening in the US and Japan," said Mr Whitehorn.

The UK Space Tourism conference was taking place at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London.

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Foster and Partners have been engaged to design the New Mexico spaceport


I'm i thinking the main thing this boils down to is money?

Being currently in a recession i doubt the government want to spend money on a Space Tourism Program program that will cost million if not billions of pounds to initiate. As for legalities i wouldn't know where to begin, why i can see a optimistic approach to this i can't help but think it would either cost to much to produce such a thing and also be costly to those who would want to use it.

Also that last picture made me giggle, reminded me of the spaceship from 'The Abyss'.
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Re: UK 'yet to embrace space tourism'

Postby FunkySpider on Sat Jul 04, 2009 2:47 pm

I've always been a bit supporter of space exploration, but indeed some of this come down to money although future plans for construction and maintaining a space port in the UK would help create jobs.
The other issue is the UK and European policy towards space, we don't really adopt the same strategy as the US and Russia who create manned outposts in orbit and aim to to expand their influence in that way, we opted for the cheaper and arguably for scientific rewarding method of automated space exploration. We launch probes and lots of them, they're cheaper, you don't have to worry about keeping a crew alive and are able to to tailor each mission to the needs of the brief with very little limitation. With this kind of policy in place is it any wonder that we are lagging behind when it come to space tourism?
The UK and European space agencies don't have their own version of the shuttle, the cost alone is astronomical (look at the ill fated ares project as well as the space shuttle) The ridiculous thing is that i compare any project we are likely to run with that of the US because for some reason we refuse to follow the Russian model which i feel has a better chance of success for far less investment. The Russian build their vehicle to last Soyuz has been in service of donkeys years and their modules on the ISS will not be decommissioned after the stations predicted lifespan is over like that of the Japanese, US and European modules, they plan to detach and keep them in orbit to be the framework for any new International Space Station project. Why the hell don't we follow this system? Is it any wonder we feel that infrastructure like space ports and manned space craft are simply a pipe dream when we would give the contract to the lowest bidder who would put an artificial lifespan on the project, expecting to be able to make more money in 10 or 20 years in a new version?
I worry about this as it seems in the future that many private companies will have access to space while national governments won't, tipping the balance of power in their favour. It'll all end up like G-Police :)
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Re: UK 'yet to embrace space tourism'

Postby BenJy! on Sat Jul 04, 2009 2:59 pm

I'd rather money be spent on exploration then tourism.
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