A few days ago I blogged about the coming geopolitical effects of space commercialization and competition, including the suggestion and implication that these factors might lead to the eventual disruption of international programs such as the European Space Agency, as individual nations with the economic base and technological infrastructure to conduct their own independent space programs do so to protect their own satellite communications assets, countries like France, Germany,or, in this case, the U.K.:
There is something very interesting occurring in this article, and it suggests, though certainly does not directly state, how such a state of affairs may come about. Consider the following statements:
"The timetable lays out a number of other specific dates: The spaceport could be operational from 2016; the first suborbital flight would occur in 2018; the first sub-orbital space plane satellite launch from the spaceport would take place in 2020; rocket engine testing for the orbital space plane would occur in 2026, and that space plane would be operational four years later. [Evolution of the Space Plane (Infographic)]
"The rocket-engine testing refers to hybrid engines, which are used by the Skylon space plane, manufactured by U.K. company Reaction Engines."
"Previously, potential users, such as Virgin Galactic, have favored Lossiemouth, in Scotland. A 2009 report into spaceport candidate locations for the U.K. Space Agency's predecessor, the British National Space Centre (BNSC), found Lossiemouth to be the best site. Located in northern Scotland, Lossiemouth is on the coast of the North Sea and has a Royal Air Force base with a runway suitable for the types of launch systems used by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic"
The article goes on to point out that the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence could change the location, but this is not the point to notice. The point to notice is the proximity to a Royal Air Force base with a suitably long runway, a runway long enough to accommodate the coming generation of sub-orbital "space planes" whose engines are, as followers of the aerospace industry know, already in testing stages.
And all of this is taking place, we are informed, with the backing of very wealthy people who think they're going to make a bundle off of the demand for space tourism. I don't know about you, but the last time I looked, there wasn't much of a clamor for a space vacation. Sure, create the technology and the opportunity, and demand will follow, and there will inevitably be a trickle of space tourists with the mega-bucks or mega-euros to afford such a jaunt.
I suspect, however, that what we're looking at is the emergence of the new paradigm: the contracting and development of technologies whose military application - think sub-orbital bombers here folks - is being done under the guise of a civilian pursuit. In fact, you'll recall that the first serious proposal and pursuit of such a sub-orbital spaceplane was done by Nazi scientist and engineer Dr. Eugen Saenger, to create an "Amerika-bomber" that would literally bomb targets in the USA, circumnavigate the globe, and return to Europe. Allow the public and civilian sector, in other words, to reveal a technology that has probably existed in the black world for some time, and then reveal the military version to the public in order to protect the commercial and civilian populace in space.
And Great Britain, like every other great power, knows this, and intends to develop its national capability in this respect. We can expect the same from France, Germany, and as the article points out, such private spaceports are already under development in the USA.
In other words, in the next 10-20 years, the world is about to change, dramatically, again, through the introduction of new technologies.
See you on the flip side...