Spaceships at Manston? Campaigners to pitch airport site to UK Space Agency as potential launchpad today

PUBLISHED: 11:27 21 February 2017 | UPDATED: 11:27 21 February 2017

Could spacecraft be deployed from Manston in the future?

Could spacecraft be deployed from Manston in the future?


A presentation will be made to bosses at the Royal Aeronautical Society

The former Manston airport site will today be pitched to the UK Space Agency as a potential launchpad.

Campaigners working to get planes flying again in Thanet have secured the meeting with space chiefs at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, where bosses will hear a ten-minute presentation from the campaigners, who will champion the benefits of using Manston for launching spacecraft.

Driving the movement is Russ Timpson, who stood against Craig Mackinlay and Nigel Farage for the Liberal Democrats in South Thanet in 2015.

He told us earlier this month: “It started when I came across a Civil Aviation Authority document promoting space science and facilities at locations around the country.

“In the initial assessment about where it was feasible, they had essentially written off Manston but I soon found out that was completely subject to change.”

Mr Timpson explained how there are two main methods of accessing orbital flight - rockets punching through the atmosphere vertically, and vehicles launched by aircraft taking off in the more conventional manner from airport runways.

“We are trying to say that Manston has a viable future as an airport hub - not necessarily as a passenger airport - we are looking at all other possible revenue streams.

“If they’ll listen, we intend to report the results of the discussion to Thanet District Council.”

Ukip leader Chris Wells said: “As ever, I am always interested in potential opportunities for the Manston airport site.

“The opportunities must be credible. realistic, with feet-on-the-ground political business plans, even for a spaceport.

“I look forward to hearing the results of the discussions.”

The idea has also been backed by Thanet North MP Sir Roger Gale, who told us: “The two [aircraft and spacecraft] are not mutually incompatible, and there is no reason why Manston shouldn’t be used for all sorts of purposes as space travel develops.

“But that is a long way ahead, we need Manston to serve the UK immediately for freight and passenger services to the far east.”

The council is currently inviting feedback on plans to turn the site over from aviation-only use to mixed-use in its local plan - a document outlining how development will be shaped in the district up to 2031.

The land is currently owned by businessmen behind the Stone Hill Park project, who have submitted a planning application to develop 2,500 homes and leisure facilities, and said earlier this week that building could commence as early as this year - a suggestion laughed off by Sir Roger.

Speaking at a conference today, Ross James, director of commercial space at the UK Space Agency said: “Our aim is ambitious.

“We want to make the UK the first country in Europe where commercial operators can both launch small satellites into orbit and offer sub-orbital flights.”

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