At the start of every parliament, “The Queen’s speech” involves Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II reading out the rough legislative agenda prepared by the government. While this year’s speech had commentators noting what was in – prison reform – and what was not – a new Sovereignty Bill (originally planned to head off internal Conservative party support for an EU exit) – it was the announcement that a new spaceport would be started in 2020 that caught the eye of space cadets.

This announcement solidifies what had been expected – that a spaceport will be developed to allow operation of horizontally launched space planes and launch vehicles. The airstrip/airport will have new fuelling and payload preparation facilities attached to it.

The favourite to be chosen is Newquay, in Cornwall, which would allow orbital launch vehicles carried by aircraft to be flown relatively quickly over the Atlantic to be air-launched from there. This technique would enable flights to a variety of orbits, ranging from eastward flights to near polar Sun-synchronous ones. The site would also allow quick flights of suborbital air-launched craft such as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

However, the Newquay site is unsuitable for vertical launched rockets. These would probably need a launch site in Scotland for near polar Sun-synchronous orbits – the ideal for Earth observation spacecraft – to be attained.

The Queen’s Speech had one other space related announcement. GPS trackers would be used on prisoners to allow them to work outside prison walls for some periods of their incarceration.

Spaceport design concept. Courtesy: UK Space Agency

Spaceport design concept. Courtesy: UK Space Agency