Will Virgin Galactic Fly Out of Scotland’s Version of Area 51?

Artist's conception of WhiteKnight2/SpaceShipTwo in flight (credit: Virgin Galactic)
Artist's conception of WhiteKnight2/SpaceShipTwo in flight (credit: Virgin Galactic)

Some interesting news about Virgin Galactic’s efforts to launch space tourism in Scotland, courtesy of the Sunday Herald:

Based tales of UFOs, secretive government test sites, mysterious hangars and underground cities, it is a sales pitch that is literally out of this world. A group of industrious locals in Argyll have clubbed together to try and convince Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson’s new venture in space tourism, to turn the disused RAF base in Machrihanish on the Mull of Kintyre into its UK spaceport.

Their pitch is based less upon accessibility and duty free than upon the site’s other unofficial title: Scotland’s Area 51. Due to its use during the Cold War as a US air base, a shroud of secrecy has hung over the remote site – something that locals hope will attract the eye of arch-publicist Branson.

My initial reaction was: Good luck with that. Space tourism is seen as strange enough; why fly out of East Roswell? But, apparently it is on Sir Richard’s radar:

Virgin Galactic company president Will Whitehorn confirmed that three locations have been scouted in Scotland as potential UK spaceports. Lossiemouth was cited as the favourite after “positive talks” with Morayshire council and the RAF. Machrihanish, along with Kinloss, was named as a suitable back-up.

Shows how much I know.

Seriously, the bigger mystery – posed by Rocketplane Global’s Chuck Lauer at the Space Access ’09 in April – is why Scotland at all? The place is lovely and the view from 100 kilometers would be spectacular – when it’s not shrouded in clouds. And how many days a year is that true?

I guess they could platoon it with Kiruna. It’s not that far away, is it?