The World's First Private Astronaut Training Centre Will be Built in the UK

By Tom Pritchard on at

It looks like the government's plans to bet big on this whole 'space' fad might be paying off. Following news that the Department of Transport wants to build a spaceport, plans have been announced to build a £120 million private space research centre in sunny Bedfordshire.

The facility will be known as 'Blue Abyss', which makes me wonder whether naming committee took some inspiration from Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin. It'll be built at RAF Henlow, to regenerate the base into a science, innovation and technology hub. Plans are for the centre to include a 50-metre deep pool, a 120 room hotel, astronaut training facilities, and a "human performance centre" that'll help athletes, astronauts, and divers train a the peak of their potential.

Henlow seems like a perfect place for such a facility, given how it's set to shut down in 2020 and already houses some of the equipment astronauts have to use to prepare for an extraterrestrial voyage. Equipment like a centrifugal base, that would have been expensive and difficult to install from scratch. By making all of it available for commercial use, it means private space companies will have access to everything they need to ensure astronauts and passengers are ready for the conditions they might face beyond the confines of our blue/green blob of a planet.

The pool is also a more than four times deeper than NASA's 12-metre Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, and will have uses beyond frivolous trips into space. The plan is to make the pool available to offshore drilling companies and manufacturers of submersible vehicles, in order to test the equipment ready for use in the deep sea.

Blue Abyss will be designed by Robin Partington, the architect behind London's Gherkin tower, with construction set to begin by the end of this year. If everything goes according to plan, the facility should be ready for operation sometime in 2019 - providing 160 jobs in the process. [Blue Abyss via Engadget]

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