Update: This article as it originally appeared did not mention the National Aerospace Training and Research (NASTAR) center, which is an existing commercial astronaut training center in the US.
A company in the UK has announced the world’s first a facility dedicated to the training of commercial astronauts.
Blue Abyss is going to build the facility in Bedfordshire, taking over a Royal Air Force (RAF) base that is set to close in 2020. The $155 million (£120 million) construction is set to open its doors in 2019.
It’s going to be pretty impressive. There’s already a centrifuge at the site, which can subject astronauts to the intense g-forces experienced in a launch. Blue Abyss will also build the world’s deepest pool at 50 meters (165 feet), in which astronauts can train. This will have different levels to perform underwater activities.
Astronauts train for space missions in pools, such as one in Russia’s Star City in Moscow and NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Texas. Blue Abyss, though, says this will be the first that is aimed to train astronauts on commercial missions. Plus, their pool is more than four times deeper than NASA’s. So there.
“The government highlighted in the Queen’s Speech how important the space industry is for UK plc,” Blue Abyss CEO John Vickers said in a statement. “It wants to make the UK the most attractive place in Europe for commercial spaceflight to help increase the UK share of the global space economy to 10% by 2030.”
The UK is already getting heavily involved in private spaceflight. It is one of the world's foremost satellite manufacturers, and is also planning to build a spaceport for space planes in Newquay, Cornwall.
The commitment to Blue Abyss, though, gives the UK a big boost in its commercial spaceflight endeavors. Although no partners were named, there are a number of companies developing commercial spacecraft such as SpaceX, Boeing, and Blue Origin.
Various other companies have announced plans to build private space hotels in orbit, and organizations like Virgin Galactic are hoping to send paying customers into space aboard their space planes in the future.
In its statement, Blue Abyss said it would have a wide range of experimental “space preparation packages” to “allow ordinary people to undergo a full astronaut training programme ready for the wave of commercial spaceflight opportunities coming to market.”
It’s not just astronauts that will benefit from this facility. Blue Abyss also wants to support deep sea missions and help pioneer research and development in extreme environments.
So if you’re an up-and-coming commercial astronaut, you might just find yourself heading to the UK in the future to prepare for your missions to space.