Loch Canavarel

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From our Swindon Correspondent:

From the BBC

Highland Council officials have recommended councillors give planning permission for a space port.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) wants to build the satellite launch site on peatland on the Moine Peninsula near Tongue.

HIE has said by the year 2024 the space port would support 177 jobs across Scotland – 139 in the Highlands with more than 40 of these posts in and around the launch site.

HIE has approved up to £17.3m in funding towards designing and building the space hub. HIE would contribute £9.8m, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority £5m and the UK Space Agency £2.5m.

Apart from the £100K/job, does this make sense? I thought it was generally better to launch much closer to the equator, which is why NASA launches are some way into Florida, SpaceX are right on the Mexican border, and the Ariane rockets go off from Reunion, the closest bit of land to the equator that’s part of a European country. Or has something changed about this?

(Editor’s answer: Polar orbits are useful for some purposes)

 

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mitch
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mitch
asiaseen
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asiaseen

In my ignorance I would never have guessed that “peatland” would be an ideal substrate for a space port.
“Peatland is a terrestrial wetland ecosystem in which the production of organic matter exceeds its decomposition and a net accumulation of peat results.”

Bloke in Germany
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Bloke in Germany

The Kennedy space center is built on a swampy sandbank, so maybe it’s not so bad.

Ltw
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Ltw

The substrate probably doesn’t matter. It would have more to do with there isn’t anything there, because it’s a swamp, and nothing but polar ice to the north.

Bloke in Germany
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Bloke in Germany

Polar ice? Gonna report you for climate wrongthink there.

dodgy geezer
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dodgy geezer

Polar orbits are indeed useful for many purposes – they enable a satellite to view ALL of the Earth without changing orbit, as the Earth revolves beneath them. Equatorial launches give you a bit more speed, which is useful if you have a big payload or are using an early unsophisticated rocket. But te difference is not huge – about 100 m/sec – and modern rockets can easily absorb this difference. Much more important is logistics and geography. You REALLY do not want to launch over populated territory. So equatorial launch sites want clear water to the East of them,… Read more »

Ltw
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Ltw

Baikonur fails on the not launching over populated territory, in both directions, north or east. But then I guess the Russians in the 50’s didn’t really care (to the east is Mongolia, not their problem). It was about as far south as the USSR could manage I guess. But they did do manned missions and stuff from there way back in the 60s and it’s still up and running, so presumably latitude is not as much of an issue as people think.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

It’s a cosine function, so at 45ºN you get 70m/s rather than 100m/s. Kennedy is around 30ºN so ~85m/s.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

You REALLY do not want to launch over populated territory.

[cough] Vandenberg [cough]. Still, I suppose Vegas could be counted as unpopulated (by humans, anyway).

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

The rationale is that the proposed space port will launch small satellites, which benefit less from equatorial launches. 40% of all small and 25% of all large satellites launched world-wide are UK made. A UK based launching site makes a great deal of sense, whether it needs state subsidy is another matter entirely.

John B
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John B

It’s to go with the railway set that Boris wants but isn’t needed.

Bloke in Germany
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Bloke in Germany

As Musk, for all his faults, seems able to launch dozens of satellites for thruppence-ha’penny each, this looks very much like Tim’s favourite example of every African government wanting its own blast furnace.

Spike
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Spike

Quite. Is there any evidence of demand for one more launch pad (especially as no one yet knows what fees it might charge), or is this a case of, “This will put us on the map!”?

If all you want to do is create 177 “jobs,” it would be cheaper to just pay 177 people to pretend they are doing work. Except that the funds are taxed away from people who created 177 jobs that really were.

CJ Nerd
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CJ Nerd

I wrote about this in a bit more detail a couple of years ago:
https://www.continentaltelegraph.com/2018/07/oops-we-got-it-wrong-excellent/