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European Spaceport Review - 2019

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  • 295 Pages
  • June 2020
  • Region: Europe
  • Commercial Space Technologies Ltd.
  • ID: 5206538


Although at present the term “spaceport” may sound unusual to the common ear, in a few years it may become as ordinary a term as an airport. Whilst the linguistic definition of a spaceport means a door to space, from an economic perspective it is a means of development.

A recent increase in space transportation in the United States is mainly due to private businesses entering the fray. According to the FAA, at present 9 private US companies operate holding 26 active commercial licenses granted by the US Office of Commercial Space Transportation, their commercial space transportation activities are supported by 11 commercial domestic launch sites (aka spaceports) and one foreign site.

Following the lead set principally by the US, other countries are starting to commercialise their space programmes, in the hope of reducing associated costs and acquiring a larger share of the rapidly expanding space market.

The major European space transportation activities are carried by Ariane, Soyuz and Vega launchers from the launch site located in Kourou, French Guiana, on the Atlantic coast of South America, i.e. far away from Europe. On one hand, this launch site’s remoteness is advantageous for flight safety and its near equatorial location achieves payload gains from the Earth’s rotation. On the other hand, this site is too distant, and thus incapable of providing rapid and affordable access to space for many commercial customers willing to launch small payloads (below 100kg) or take a tour into space. A spaceport located within the EU or closer to Europe than the Guiana Space Centre, serving small orbital launchers below 1000 kg payload capacity to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and/or suborbital human flights, would be a favourable alternative for these customers. Such a spaceport, if it existed, is expected to serve a growing number of commercial customers, bring money to the local economy and increase local employment. These, and the potential strategic advantage from independent access to space, are reasons why several European countries have been investigating the development of commercial spaceports.

A prospective European spaceport is intended to serve small orbital launchers below 1000kg payload capacity to LEO, The European Space Agency (ESA) often refers these small launchers as “micro-launchers”, as well as manned and unmanned suborbital launchers serving public and government customers on a commercial basis. Applied in this way, the spaceport is viewed as being an amendment to the Guiana Space Centre, rather than an interfering competitor.

The publisher understands that there are a number of nations across Europe with similar plans for opening commercial spaceports. These include: Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Italy and Spain. In order to successfully operate in this rapidly evolving space market, these players need to understand the comparative advantages and disadvantages for each spaceport option, within the context of the expected European market for space launch.

Sites across the whole of Europe (excluding those in the UK) proposed for vertical and horizontal launch to orbit and suborbital spaceflight are reviewed and assessed in this document. The document is a review of freely available open-source information on the subject. Pacific Spaceport in Alaska and Mahia spaceport in New Zealand are used as the reference models for vertical launch spaceports for comparison against European sites, and the Mojave Air and Space port is used as a reference model for comparison of horizontal launch spaceports.

This is a third updated edition of earlier reviews issued in 2017 and 2019.

Spaceport development is a dynamic, on-going process so that each European Spaceport Review differs by its content depending on the spaceports’ development progress. It is recommended to acquire the most recent version from CST for up-to-date information.

The financial figures quoted below in national currencies are converted to $, € and ₤ according to contemporary exchange rates. Due to volatilities of the currency conversion rates, it is recommended to check the rates if accurate values are required.


  • This review aims to inform the reader about the status of European spaceport developments.
  • The Introduction explains the motives for the review as well as giving a general outlook for spaceport concepts.
  • A Spaceport Overview in Section 1 gives background terms and definitions useful for understanding of the other sections; in particular, it gives the main features of spaceports, classifications and generic factors.
  • In Section 2 Pacific Spaceport Complex, the Mahia launch site and Mojave Air and Space Port serve as global controls for comparison against the European spaceports described in Section 3.
  • Spaceport options in Europe: Dutch, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish and Swiss, are presented in Section 3. The spaceport options described in Sections 2 and 3 include summary tables at the end to highlight key spaceport features.
  • Spaceport options listed in Section 3 are compared using tabular forms in Section 4.
  • The Conclusions in Section 5 summarise the results of the earlier comparison, whilst giving CSTs overarching opinion on the development position of each European spaceport relative to one another and their prospects for the future. Further recommendations are also included at the end of the Conclusions.
  • Comprising references are split in two parts: CST and non-CST References. The Non-CST References also include a certainty rating to convey the reliability of the information sources used.
  • The appendix contains supporting information about: European relevant Small Launch Vehicles: active and in development stages (Appendix A); A description of European Spaceport Weather at the spaceport locations (Appendix B); a European Spaceport Weather Comparison table (Appendix C) and a European Spaceport Traffic Light Comparison table which applies Bayesian statistics to perform a side-by-side comparison of all the spaceports discussed in this review across 63 separate points (Appendix D).
  • For quick reading this report may be started from the comparison in Section 4, all results are also summarised in the traffic light weighting and scoring system in Appendix D.
  • Appendix D applies Bayesian Statistics and proprietary formulas to provide Traffic Light analysis, scoring over 70 variables that include but are not limited to:
    • Weather (e.g. feasible launch windows in the year)
    • Geographical situation (e.g. attainable azimuths for vertical launch)
    • Existing infrastructure
    • Proposed plans
    • Regulations and government support
    • Investment and financials
    • Launchers (e.g. credibility of concepts)
    • Local and domestic space industry (e.g. demand, supply chain, expertise, etc.)

Table of Contents

1 Spaceport Overview
1.1 Basic Classification
1.2 Generic Safety Factors.
1.2.1 Propellant Handling
1.3 Generic Environmental Factors
1.4 Generic Weather Factors
1.5 Generic Economic Factors
1.6 Air Traffic Integration
1.7 Space Law
1.8 Legislation
2 Operational Global Commercial Spaceports
2.1 The Pacific Spaceport Complex, Narrow Cape, Kodiak Island, South Alaska, USA
2.2 Mahia Launch Site / Launch Complex 1, North Island, New Zealand
2.3 Mojave Air and Space Port, Mojave, California, USA
3.1 Swedish Spaceport
3.1.1 Esrange Space Centre Facilities Services Orbital Launch Plans Esrange Feasibility Study for Orbital Launch Current Situation with Orbital Launch Launcher Option
3.1.2 Swedish Space Industry
3.1.3 Swedish Satellites
3.1.4 Transportation Access Kiruna Airport
3.1.5 Overflight
3.1.6 National Legislation
3.1.7 Weather
3.2 Norwegian Andøya Spaceport
3.2.1 Historic developments
3.2.2 Present Plans List of published documents Motivation Construction Plans Phase 1 Construction Phase 2 Construction Outdoor activities Environmental designations Protected areas and habitats Ecological functional areas for species Landscape ecological functional areas Conclusion and overall consistency National Cultural Heritage Natural Resources Agriculture Pasture and Hunting Water Resources Mineral Resources Indecision Fishery Noise Pollutions Landscapes Public Health Geological survey Risk and vulnerability The Municipal Plan Schedule
3.2.3  Launcher North Star Launch Vehicle
3.2.4 Norwegian Space Industry
3.2.5 Norwegian Satellites
3.2.6 Location
3.2.7 Transportation Access
3.2.8 Weather
3.2.9 National Legislation
3.2.10 Comments NSLV Challenges Alternative Launcher Options The Norwegian Space Industry Norwegian Launch Site Final Note on Norwegian Spaceport Prospects
3.3 Portuguese Spaceport in Azores
3.3.1 Historic development Development Plan
3.3.2 Present Status
3.3.3  Government Involvement
3.3.4 Budgets
3.3.5 Structural Arrangement
3.3.6 Portuguese Space Industry
3.3.7 Portuguese Satellites
3.3.8 Location
3.3.9 Environmental Designations
3.3.10 Transportation Access
3.3.11 National Legislation
3.3.12 Weather
3.4 Swiss Spaceport
3.4.1 Historic developments
3.4.2 Swiss Space Industry
3.4.3 Swiss Satellites
3.4.4 Payerne Airport Location
3.4.5 Transportation Access
3.4.6 Weather
3.5 Italian Spaceport
3.5.1 Historical development Virgin Galactic Virgin Orbit
3.5.2 Italian Space Industry
3.5.3 Italian Satellites
3.5.4 Location Environmental Designations Transportation Access
3.5.5 Weather
3.6 Spanish Spaceport
3.6.1 Indigenous Launchers Overview PLD Space Zero2Infinity Celestia Aerospace
3.6.2 Spaceport Location Options Zaragoza Runway Length Noise Flight Corridor The Alternative Options Environmental Designations
3.6.3 Spanish Space Industry
3.6.4 Spanish Satellites
3.6.5 Weather
3.7 The Netherlands Spaceport
3.7.1 The Netherlands Space Industry
3.7.2 The Netherlands Satellites
3.7.3 Location
3.8 Polish Spaceport
3.8.1 Polish Sounding Rocket
3.8.2 Polish Space Industry
3.8.3 Polish Satellites
4.1 Potential Launch Operator Financial and Technical Viability for Spaceports
5.1 Take Home
5.2 Recommendations
A.1 VLM launcher
A.2 North Star - the Nano Satellite Launcher
A.3 PLD Space
A.4 Celestia Aerospace
A.5 Zero2Infinity
A.6 Virgin Orbit LauncherOne
A.7 Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two Spaceplane
A.8 Rocketplane XP
A.9 Skyrora XL
A.10 Orbex
A.11 ABL Space Systems
A.12 Astra
A.13 Rocket Lab
A.14 Super Small Launcher Comparison
B.1 Sweden - Kiruna Weather
B.2 Norway - Andenes Weather
B.3 Portugal - Santa Maria, Azores Weather
B.4 Switzerland - Payerne Weather
B.5 Italy - Taranto Weather
B.6 Spain - Zaragoza weather



Companies Mentioned

  • ABL Space Systems
  • AVIO
  • Andoya Space Centre
  • Astra
  • DLR
  • Deimos Elecnor
  • European Space Agency
  • NASA
  • Orbex
  • PLD Space
  • RUAG
  • Rocket Lab
  • Skyrora
  • TEKEVER Space
  • TNO
  • Thales Alenia Space
  • Virgin Orbit