Space travel could speed passengers around the world in one hour, experts claim
Published 10/06/2016 | 19:06
Passengers could fly across the world in little over an hour due to space travel, according to experts.
Plans for Britain's first spaceport, which was announced by the Government in the recent Queen's Speech, could revolutionise international travel over the next 20 years.
It could see flights between the UK and rest of the world take as little as an hour, and therefore see an end to long-haul journeys.
But this would not mean developing a new generation of supersonic Concorde aircraft because of environmental problems, according to Will Whitehorn, a past president of Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic commercial space project.
Mr Whitehorn said: "If you were to replace Concorde now with a new carbon composite supersonic aircraft, one of the things that would be very hard to get rid of is the fact that in the very upper atmosphere where Concorde was flying - above 50,000ft - there are and were concerns about what damage aviation at that altitude might do if there was mass supersonic aviation."
"One of the reasons now, I think, the leap in the next generation towards sub-orbital flight replacing future supersonic flight is because when you get outside the atmosphere you are in a very alien nasty environment.
"Once you get outside the earth's atmosphere you are in a highly radioactive area and it would be very difficult for us to make more of a mess of it than it is already from the point of view of its ability to sustain life.
"The area inside the atmosphere is incredibly precious. You only get one atmosphere and it is a fairly closed system and there is not much interaction.
"So I think if we are going to go for a new generation of supersonic flight, which I think Britain will play a part in, I think it will be called sub-orbital supersonic flight.
"There have been a number of projects in the UK and the Virgin Galactic project in the US, which has British ownership of the technology, and I think something in the next 20 years will come out of that and you will get people flying from place to place around the planet very quickly.
"But that is not going to be the first priority, that will be commercialising small satellite launches so that can do many, many more things for mankind."
His comments were echoed by Craig Clark, a Glasgow-based microsatellite manufacturer, who said the potential was there for Britain to benefit from developments in space technology.
"One of the most exciting things about the spaceport is sub-orbital travel," he said.
"For example, a spaceport in New Mexico and a spaceport in Prestwick and go between the two in an hour or so crossing the Atlantic - that would be fantastic."
They were speaking during an event at the Cheltenham Science Festival on the future of Britain's space industry, which employs nearly 35,000 people and contributes over £10 billion to the economy.
The Government is aiming to have an operational spaceport by 2018, which could be used to launch tourists into space as well as commercial satellites.
In March last year six possible locations were announced. They are Campbeltown, Argyll and Bute, Glasgow Prestwick in South Ayrshire and Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, as well as Newquay in Cornwall and Llanbedr in North Wales.
RAF Leuchars in Fife was also confirmed as a potential temporary facility.