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British government approves the first spaceport in Europe

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The British government has backed plans to build a spaceport in the United Kingdom. The facility, scheduled to be operational by 2018, is set to become to be the first spaceport in Europe, and is expected to offer both commercial travel into space and ultra-fast international flights. In agreeing to back the plan after a three-month consultation period, the government also narrowed the list of potential locations for construction to five — Campbeltown, Glasgow Prestwick, and Stornoway in Scotland, Newquay in England; and Llanbedr in Wales. A Royal Air Force base is also under consideration as a temporary location.

Plans to build a spaceport in the country were first announced last July, when the British Civil Aviation Authority named eight sites as potential locations for construction. The government has supported the scheme as part of its aims to push Britain as a world leader in commercial space travel. "I want Britain to lead the way in commercial spaceflight," said Robert Goodwill, the UK's aviation minster. "Establishing a spaceport will ensure we are at the forefront of this exciting new technology." The government will aim to attract the likes of SpaceX and Virgin Galactic to launch from the facility once it's closer to completion.

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In addition to space travel, it's hoped the facility would drastically cut down on international travel times — companies involved in the construction of the spaceport say that the travel time from the UK to Australia could be slashed from 14 hours to two. But that's still a long way off. First, the Department for Transport will put together a specification of the spaceport's requirements, before asking outside companies to tender their proposals. For now, all that exists of Britain's first spaceport is a basic drawing.