A UK Government spokesman has indicated that the failure of a Virgin Galactic test flight and the resulting loss of a test pilot will not hinder plans to establish a Spaceport in the UK.
Speculation mounted over the weekend that the explosion over the Mojave Desert could spell a setback if not the end to plans to establish ‘space tourism’.
However, Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson has made it clear that his programme will continue ‘in honour’ of the pilot killed on Friday and a second who was seriously injured – while a government spokesman has said that it will have “no effect” on their overall plans.
Eight UK sites are currently under consideration as the new home of a UK Spaceport – six of them in Scotland and two, at Kinloss and Lossiemouth, in Moray.
A detailed proposal prepared by the Moray Economic Partnership was submitted to the government last month, proposing that Kinloss would be the ‘most suited’ site for a Spaceport with nearby RAF Lossiemouth serving as an emergency back-up.
Commenting on the Virgin Atlantic tragedy a spokesman from the Department for Transport said: “Our thoughts are with the families affected by this, but it has not affected our overall plans.
“This is a sector we wish to encourage, these are very early days as we all know – but it will be part of future travel at some point.”
While Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic had identified RAF Lossiemouth as its preferred UK Spaceport base the company decided to concentrate on the United States – and have no firm plans to tie-in with the UK Government Spaceport.
The UK Spaceport will be developed over several years and initially provide a launch base for satellites rather than manned space travel.
Speaking at the weekend Richard Branson said: “We have always known that the road to space is extremely difficult.
“Space is hard – but worth it. We will persevere and move forward together.”
Last night a long term supporter of Moray’s bid to be the home of the UK’s first Spaceport, Councllor Graham Leadbitter, told insideMoray: “The Virgin Galactic crash is obviously a shocking incident and very distressing for all those connected with the pilots, as is any incident in technology development.
“In terms of space development any incident like this is obviously a setback, however the development of a spaceport involves numerous space development companies of which Virgin is just one, with others developing alternative spacecraft designs.
“There is a huge amount to be gained from spaceport development and I believe that Moray should endeavour to be at the forefront of that so that when test programmes reach their conclusions we are in the best position to be part of the next phase.”