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Prestwick takes giant leap towards space project

Prestwick Airport has taken another giant leap to becoming Britain’s first spaceport.

A memorandum of understanding was signed at the Ayrshire base that will allow it benefit from expertise provided by NASA in Houston.

Richard Jenner, Prestwick Airport spaceport director, and Arturo Machuca, Houston spaceport general manager were signatories to the agreement which also marks the start of a process to develop global ‘best practice’ for commercial space launch activities, safety and environmental standards.

Houston will also benefit from Prestwick’s relationship with space launch developer and operator Orbital Access.

Mr Jenner said: “We couldn’t wish for a more experienced partner than Houston. They have a long history of facilitating government funded launches and it is exciting to be embarking on the move to commercial space launches alongside them.

“This partnership will hopefully expedite the establishment of a spaceport at Prestwick, as soon as we have the guidance from the CAA, Dft and UK Space Agency on what a regulatory framework will involve for UK spaceports. We would anticipate that we will have this clarity at some point in 2017.”

It is estimated that a spaceport in Scotland will be worth up to £320 million to the economy before accounting for added benefits.

David Alexander, Rice Space Institute, said: “We see a lot of similarity between the efforts at Prestwick and those at the Houston Spaceport.

“Particularly exciting is the opportunity for the spaceports to act as catalysts to foster collaboration across the high-tech space, energy and medical industries: strengths that Scotland and Houston share.

“The direct engagement of Universities such as Glasgow, Strathclyde and Rice create additional opportunities for promoting innovation in research and education.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: “This is good news for the future of spaceport development in Scotland and I am pleased to see such momentum behind it.

“The UK Government’s Modern Transport Bill, to be published early next year, will help create the right legal framework for these new developments to progress.

“A British spaceport would represent a new frontier for our country. It would create skilled jobs in a cutting edge industry, and today’s announcement means Prestwick is a frontrunner to boldly go at the forefront of this exciting new era of travel.”