Snowdonia Aerospace Centre takes steps to become one of UK's first commercial spaceports


Dale Spridgeon

Snowdonia Aerospace Centre in Llanbedr is taking steps towards becoming one of the UK’s first commercial spaceports.

A delegation led by the centre recently attended a UK Space Agency conference in London, where they outlined their case as a preferred location.

The team is now receiving interest from private sector providers looking to enable frequent and low-cost access to space from the UK by 2020.

Representatives from Snowdonia Aerospace Centre, Aerospace Wales, defence technology company QinetiQ and the Welsh Government attended ‘Launch UK: Igniting the UK’s new space age’ at the Royal Aeronautical Society last month.

The event showcased the progress being made towards small-satellite launches and sub-orbital flights in the UK and brought together representatives from other prospective UK spaceport locations, as well as from spaceflight vehicle operators and the UK space-manufacturing sector.

Snowdonia Aerospace Centre chief executive Lee Paul said: “Our Snowdonia Spaceport team was well received at the Space Agency event in London and we are excited to have the support of the private sector and look forward to exploring new opportunities with interested parties.

“The past 18 months have been about creating the right operating environment and establishing a world-class facility. Completing the first phase of investment has prepared us for the future and we hope that new developments in 2017 and beyond will mean that Snowdonia Aerospace Centre is even more appealing to world-wide investment.”

Plans for enhanced site access will be shortly submitted by Gwynedd Council to the Snowdonia National Park Authority, which if approved would improve access to the Llanbedr site and provide a catalyst for further investment and development.

John Whalley, CEO of Aerospace Wales, who outlined Wales’ sectoral strengths in aerospace and the site’s key credentials, said: “Our coastal location, unrivalled segregated airspace – unique in the UK – and low level of aircraft movements make Snowdonia Aerospace Centre a very strong contender for a UK Spaceport.

“It meets all the key criteria and its relatively central location in the UK also makes it the most easily accessible to organisations across the whole of the UK.”

Dr John Idris Jones, chair of the Snowdonia Enterprise Zone, said: “Boosted by its enterprise zone status, Snowdonia Aerospace Centre is able to compete on a global stage by making the most of its unique characteristics – it’s ticking all the boxes and seems the perfect low-cost location for spaceplane operations.”

Joint enterprises – consisting of at least one potential UK spaceport and one small-satellite launch or sub-orbital flight operator – have been invited to bid for UK Space Agency grants worth £10 million to help develop spaceflight capabilities. The closing date is April 28. 

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