The last station commander at RAF Kinloss before the base was handed over to the army has welcomed confirmation that the base is one of eight UK sites being considered for a new Spaceport.
The UK Government confirmed on Tuesday that eight sites in the UK were being considered as the home of a Spaceport that they aim to establish by 2018.
Six of the eight sites are in Scotland – and two of these are in Moray, Kinloss Barracks and RAF Lossiemouth.
Kinloss is being considered by many as a front-runner because of its geographical position and existing infrastructure, while Lossiemouth has long been touted as an ideal home for launching satellites into space – but the base will soon be the home of three Typhoon squadrons and as such may lack capacity.
James Johnston is vice-chairman of the Moray Economic Partnership and chair of the Strategic Business Forum. He took up these posts after leaving the RAF with his final task overseeing the handover of the former Nimrod base at Kinloss to the Army.
Mr Johnston said: “With our fabulous weather factor, a very much less congested airspace and the availability of a skilled ‘aviation savvy’ workforce, Moray is ideally situated to host the UK’s first spaceport.
“In addition there is the extremely well found and modern aviation infrastructure at Kinloss, a lot of which has been maintained to afford the runway to be utilised by RAF Lossiemouth aircraft on a regular basis and visiting aircraft when needed.
“You also have to remember that supporting the space industry normally requires the most demanding ground handling facilities – Kinloss has the taxi-ways, hard standings and hangerage that would complement large and heavy aircraft ground manoeuvre and space industry support.
“This would be a fantastic business opportunity for Moray-Speyside as a Region and the Moray Economic Partnership remain ready to assist in developing the opportunity.”
Moray Task Force
A local councillor meanwhile has called on a new task force being formed to ensure that Moray wins the space race – along the same lines as the organisation that helped save RAF Lossiemouth from closure in 2011.
Fochabers/Lhanbryde councillor Sean Morton said: “This is terrific news – we have all hoped for some time that Kinloss or Lossiemouth would be on this shortlist, but for Moray to have two contenders out of only eight nationwide is phenomenal.
“If we are going to win this space race, we have to pull together a brand new Moray Taskforce like the one which saved RAF Lossiemouth a few years ago.
“This could be the greatest boost to Moray’s economy and be the shot to the arm we need to keep our brightest young minds right here in Moray.
“I have today written to the Chief Executive of the Council asking him to help get the right people round the table to make sure Moray sells itself. The benefits of this UK government backed project would be truly astronomical for Moray.”
Announcing the plans for a UK Spaceport, business secretary Vince Cable said: “Our world-leading and ambitious space sector is thriving.
“This week we will announce the next steps for this country’s space race, outlining how we will take one giant leap towards establishing the first British spaceport by 2018 – making the UK the place for space.”
The plans are being laid to allow the UK to take the lead on future space launches from Europe. While the primary aim is to have a facility for launching satellites into space, development of commercial space travel is also an area that ministers are keen to explore.
When development the UK Spaceport will be the first of its kind created outside of the United States. Eight UK sites have been identified and it is expected that an announcement on which had been chosen will be made in March next year.
• Stornoway Airport – Runway length 2200 to 2499m, located on the Western Isles.
• Kinloss Barracks – Runway length 2200 to 2499m, located in Moray.
• RAF Lossiemouth – Runway length over 3000m, located in Moray
• RAF Leuchars – Runway length over 3000m, located on the east coast of Scotland.
• Glasgow Prestwick – Runway length over 3000m, located on the west coast of Scotland.
• Campbeltown Airport (formerly RAF Machrihanish) – Runway length over 3000m, located on the west coast of Scotland.
• Lanbedr Airport – Runway length 2200 to 2499m, located on the west coast of Wales.
• Newquay Airport (formerly RAF St Mawgan) – Runway length over 3000m, located on north coast of Cornwall.