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Sunday, February 15, 2009


This is a satellite photograph of Ascension Island which I have previously suggested would be a very suitable site for a British spaceport. The US/UK airbase is visible on the bottom left (South West) corner. Clearly plenty of room for all.

Note that the wind appears to be from the South East & that clouds only form as the wet air is driven up the hills - there being no clouds at sea except where they have already passed over land.

Here in the US a lot of entrepreneurs are working with local authorities to set up public or private spaceports. I think the best solution for all would be to privatize Cape Canaveral and make it a public spaceport. It clearly has plenty of abandoned rocket gantries and lots of swampland to absorb falling debris.

If a private buyer really wanted to make money he could cut up a lot of the land around the rocketport and sell it with a restriction on title stating that the buyer and his successors are aware of the danger of falling rocket parts, thereby at least limiting the liability. Also, if a lot of private rocket companies set up near the cape then the nearby land would be good for workshops and offices.

Why should local governments across the US waste money trying to attract some upstart rocket industry when we could make good use of our existing spaceports? The US has at least three active federally owned spaceports, one in Florida, one in California and one in Alaska, all of which could be sold, or at least made available to the public for reasonable prices. The Chinese did this with military seaports, we could do it for military spaceports.
One of the reasons for choosing Canaveral was that rockets are always launched to the west to take asvantage of the Earth's rotation & to its west is thousands of miles of open sea so no worry about hitting anybody. The other technical reason is that the further south the higher the rotational speed.

I would be happy to see Canaveral open to private enterprise launches but, as with NASA generally, I think they would be unable to cut the bureaucracy enough to make it competitive. Putting in the receivers & selling off NASA's assets would work but I think is politically impossible. The incentives I suggested for Ascension Island (a bit of infrastructure & a tax free status) are not that expensive & New Mexico's attempt to encourge launching facilities probably costs them even less since much of the infrastrucure already exists.
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