British Spaceplane Skylon to Fly in 2020?


The papers also reported this week that the government was looking for somewhere to put a spaceport for a British spacecraft, which would take off from ordinary runaways. The spacecraft would be launched in 2020. One of the places suggested as a possible site for the spaceport is Newquay in Cornwall.

This sounds like Skylon, a spaceplane that has been in development by British scientists since the 1980s. The plane will use a mixture of advanced air-breathing engines and rockets to enter space. It’s sort-of the successor to an earlier spaceplane project, HOTOL, which was under development in the 1980s before it was cancelled due to problems developing its air-breathing engines.

This is really great news. There have been other spaceplanes planned by a number of other countries, quite apart from the American space shuttle, and its Russian counterpart, Buran. The Germans had the Sanger spaceplane under consideration in the 1990s, named after the German aerospace engineer and scientist, Eugen Sanger, while the French were also considering the Hermes spacecraft. This was going to be a mini-shuttle launched by their Ariane rocket, rather like the American Dyno-Soar spaceplane of the 1950s. If this does go ahead, it will mean that Britain has once again returned as an independent space power after the cancellation of the Black Knight rocket launcher in 1975.

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4 Responses to “British Spaceplane Skylon to Fly in 2020?”

  1. Florence Says:

    That would be so exciting! When I was eight I thought I might go to Mars as a scientist, I already had my chemistry set and microscope and career planned….. I do hope the UK builds on its fantastic people resources to become a space power again. After Beagle and Rosetta, we have proved yet again that UK scientists can do breakthrough science on a shoestring, proving we have ambition and exceptional talent.

    • Beastrabban Says:

      Absolutely! I also wanted to go into space when I was little. And I can remember how it was confidently predicted that by this time, we’d have colonies in space and bases on the Moon. It hasn’t happened, but hopefully, it won’t be too long before it does.

      • Florence Says:

        If only the effort and money dedicated to war went into peaceful research ….. on Earth and off world. We could be so far ahead of where we are. Those cheesy “Tomorrow’s World” predictions would now all be true!

      • Beastrabban Says:

        The American comedian Bill Hicks used to end his show with exactly the same message. He used to say that if all the money currently spent on nuclear weapons was used instead for peace, we could feed the world’s starving – not one person would starve – and explore space, in peace, forever.

        Amen to that. And may God rest his soul.

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