The UK government's unveiled ambitious plans to build a spaceport in Britain by 2018, although it hasn't yet been decided where. Several sites are being looked at, including some in Scotland, which is due to hold a referendum on independence in September. Joanna Partridge reports
Stepping up the pace of the commercial space race. The UK government believes a British spaceport would have firms lining up to use it for commercial spaceflights, satellite launches or delivery of cargo to space. So it wants to build a spaceport in the next four years. That's even though no firm has yet proven its spaceplane can carry passengers. David Parker, CEO of the UK Space Agency, was at the announcement at the Farnborough Airshow. SOUNDBITE: Dr David Parker, Chief Executive, UK Space Agency, saying (English): "We have a success story in space already in the UK, it's growing. New growth figures show it's £11.3 billion to the UK economy now. We have new opportunities we want to seize and one of those is in space tourism." The government is looking at eight possible sites for the spaceport. The idea to build it somewhere remote - with an existing runway which is long enough, or could be extended to the length required for spaceplanes. Six of those sites are in Scotland. But it's holding an independence referendum in September, which could affect the choice of location if Scotland decided to leave the union. Several companies are designing spaceplanes which can carry passengers. Airbus and Safran the latest to announce a space launcher joint venture in June - to compete with rivals such as Elon Musk's U.S.-based SpaceX. The British government would like 10% of the global space market by 2030 - which it estimates will be worth around £40 billion a year. Vince Cable is Business Secretary. SOUNDBITE: Vince Cable, British Business Secretary, saying (English): "We have companies in the UK manufacturing, designing, doing the IT work around small satellites and we've grown to the extent to which outside the United States, Britain is probably the leading country and we want to now consolidate that." The U.S. has already constructed the world's first space base purpose-built for commercial launches. This is Spaceport America in New Mexico. The inaugural flights with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic have been scheduled to take off from there this year.