Moray is expected to be named on a shortlist of locations to host the UK’s first Spaceport – with Kinloss Barracks thought to be a front-runner.
UK Science minister David Willets is determined that such a facility will be operational in the next five years – now it is being anticipated that an announcement is set to be made on suitable sites in the UK for a site where satellites, rockets and possibly even tourist spacecraft could be launched.
Mr Willets hinted that the Kinloss site would fit the bill earlier this year when he commented that “a location in Scotland where RAF bases are moving away” might provide the ideal site.
A group was set up in May by the minister, the National Space Flight Co-ordination Group, with the task of putting forward detailed plans for the UK’s first spaceport.
That taskforce is due to report this month and it is believed an announcement might come next week, ahead of the Westminster parliament going into summer recess.
For some time RAF Lossiemouth was considered the ideal site but recent changes and investment at the base will mean it is likely to remain in use by the services for some considerable time.
That has pushed Kinloss Barracks into the frontline for consideration – although it has now emerged that other Scottish sites could be considered, including RAF Leuchars from where Typhoon squadrons are already be transferred to Lossiemouth.
While the possibility of a UK site being used as a European base for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic project currently operating out of New Mexico, it is believed more realistic that Moray could be in line for a spaceport launching smaller satellites for academic or commercial ventures.