Could Norfolk be about to get a spaceport - almost 50 years after plans for one at Brancaster were ditched?

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo flies over Mojave, California. Could Norfolk host a spaceport for Ric

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo flies over Mojave, California. Could Norfolk host a spaceport for Richard Branson's intergalactic trips? - Credit: AP

A list of eight possible locations across the UK for the first British spaceport will be announced this week at the Farnborough air show, with speculation that one of the sites could be in Norfolk.

Representatives from the UK Space Agency will join government ministers to reveal the potential locations for a dedicated spaceport which they hope will be ready by 2018.

As part of ambitious plans the government aims to capture 10pc of the world's space market by 2030, citing figures that the UK sector has grown by just over 7pc in the past two years, making it worth £11 billion and employing 34,000 people.

Business Secretary Vince Cable, who will join representatives from the Department for Transport in making the announcement on Tuesday, said the UK space sector is booming.

'This week we will announce the next steps for this country's space race and how we will take one giant leap towards creating the first British spaceport, making space travel one step closer for all,' he said.

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While none of the eight locations have been officially named, the Observer newspaper speculated that, along with Lossiemouth in Scotland, Bristol and the Outer Hebrides, Norfolk could be in the frame.

In the 1960s, when Britain had its own space programme, Brancaster in North Norfolk was on a shortlist of three possible launchpad sites.

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However, there were fears that stages falling from rockets after launch stood a chance, albeit a small one, of hitting oil rigs in the North Sea.

Britain's space programme, which included rockets such as Black Arrow, Black Knight and Blue Streak, was instead switched to Australia until the launcher project was axed in 1972.

While an announcement of the locations will not be made until Tuesday, chief secretary to the treasurer, Danny Alexander talked up the possibility of Scotland featuring in the announcement.

He told the BBC: 'The UK space industry is one of our great success stories and I am sure there will be a role for Scotland to play in the future.'

And the Mail on Sunday, which claims to have learned the eight locations, says six of the potential locations are in Scotland, with the other two in Wales and Cornwall.

The government has said a spaceport would open up the UK tourism industry to specialist operators like Virgin Galactic and XCor, and predicted the sector could be worth £40bn and provide 100,000 jobs if the 2030 target is met.

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