Will spaceflight become a UK election issue like the USA?

by | Jul 13, 2009 | Seradata News | 1 comment

To see space tourism red tape get UK national newspaper coverage and for it to centre on criticism from the second largest political party in the country’s 1,000-year old parliamentary system would be surprising to many Britons to say the least

While the UK is not a country known for having enthusiastic support for space travel from its political class Hyperbola is not entirely surprised. This blog is aware that on 8 June Sir Richard Branson met with Conservative party leader David Cameron – the Conservative party (locally known as the Tories) is that second largest party and under the country’s constitutional law is referred to as the “official opposition”

Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn made an interesting comment at the 30 June Royal Aeronautical Society space tourism conference saying that he expected “the opposition to talk more about [space tourism]”. Whitehorn went on vacation soon after and so I didn’t get an answer to my email about that

The 9 July Mark Henderson Times Online article that Duncan Law-Green’s Rocketeer.co.uk blog points too refers to a 2005 report but there has been work done by the British National Space Centre (BNSC) since then, two further reports in fact. Well, why shouldn’t the bureaucrats have fun too?

In 2006 the BNSC undertook a consultation of its licensing rules and that was followed by a more detailed 2008 study that recommended how the space tourism industry could be encouraged with a phased introduction of rules

What made the open criticism from Whitehorn at the RAeS conference surprising was that a very senior BNSC official has told Hyperbola that they are completely supportive of Virgin Galactic satellite launcher proposals

And as to UK spaceflight licensing rules changing, well they won’t just impact a UK spaceport. The UK government will have to be involved in the launch of SpaceShip Two (SS2) from Spaceport America under the UK’s Cold War era outer space act obligations. A lack of movement on the BNSC’s part for its licensing system threatens the whole Virgin Galactic enterprise. So what has led to this almost open warfare by UK standards?

Hyperbola can only imagine that the space tourism card is one being played because Branson’s Virgin Group has other interests that will benefit from a David Cameron led UK government. And because of the likely 2012 in-service date for SS2 knocking today’s government won’t hurt Galactic’s dealings much with a new Conservative space minister after the May 2010 general election the UK has to have – all the opinion polls indicate a Conservative victory next year

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