Cape Canaveral
Wales poised to become the Cape Canaveral of the UK (wiki commons)

Wales is being considered as a possible location for the first UK space launch base, despite hardly having an airport offering international flights.

Science minister David Willetts has backed a multi-million pound space port for the UK. While it would be privately funded and would offer space tourism packages, the government will have to change regulations in regards to space travel, the Daily Mail reports.

Willetts called the plan to build the space port, similar to Cape Canaveral in Florida, within the next five years a "very exciting ambition".

Locations currently being considered include the West Country, Wales and Scotland, with Andy Green, chairman of the UK Space Leadership Council, explaining it would have to be near the coast.

"For a space portal you need to be beside a long body of open water where you can't annoy anybody," he said.

"You don't want to be launching over land. It's much safer and better for people to be running out to the sea. What we are asking the government is not to fund the space portal but to set a regulatory regime that allows it to be delivered.

"If you've got crafts going up into space they need to be coordinated with the Civil Aviation Authority and everything else that's going on in our already crowded air space.

Cardiff Airport
Cardiff Airport was bought by the government earlier this year (wiki commons)

"You definitely need to be prepared for a higher risk profile than you have in civil aviation. When you go up into space things can sometimes go wrong. That's life."

A space port would bring a host of space tourists to Wales, should it be chosen as the location for the base. Its only current airport offering travel outside of the UK was bought by the government in March after years of decline.

Cardiff Airport passenger numbers suffered immensely after budget airline bmibaby withdrew its flights and in 2012, just one million passengers used the airport, compared to six million in nearby Bristol.

Willetts said he hopes the space port would provide a European hub where Sir Richard Branson could base his Virgin Galactic space tourism programme, which will offer trips to the cosmos for £200,000.

"The space portal is a very exciting ambition. It's very important that Britain is a driving force for the growth area of low cost space travel."

Green added that the base would not only be used for tourism: "It's important to understand that the space portal is not just for people going for jaunts into space. It would enable us to put up a range of satellites which would make it easier for us to expand broadband coverage, for example."

Discussing time frames for the project, he said: "The belief is there is a commercial opportunity. We believe 2018 is feasible."