Spaceports are basically a lot like airports – where craft like space planes and rockets – take off and land.
Since the development of space flight on Earth, virtually all space craft have been launched vertically using rockets supported by giant gantries which fall away as the rocket takes off!
Rocket gantries need massive amounts of engineering, both above and below the ground to be really strong.
There’s a proposal to build Space Ports in the UK to launch both rockets vertically and space planes that take off horizontally using long runways – just like normal planes.
One reason to use runways for horizontal take offs is that we already have airports set up for this – or at least ones that could be easily converted.
That means space ports could be up and running more quickly – and more cheaply.
Of course, cost is important because the first people using British Space Ports are likely to be companies sending small satellites up – it won’t necessarily be people with a lot of money for their very own massive rockets.
So how much runway might you need to launch a spaceplane? Not much more than for a regular aircraft – at least on the ground.
The minimum length required for space planes is 3,000 metres. One of the largest is at Cape Canaveral is over 4,500 metres in length!
Once in the air, the safest flight paths are ones that don’t go over places where people are living – this is why people are suggesting that the spaceports should be near the coast, so space planes and rockets can take off over the sea.
Like with airports, there’s more to spaceports than just long runways for take-off and landing – think maintenance, freight and of course passengers.
You might also need training facilities for astronauts and also a cool control tower to make sure every take-off and landing is safe.
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