Could you please direct me to the space train station? New Space in Germany.

In honour of my much-anticipated viewing of the first two episodes of Star Trek: Picard this evening, I spent a few hours today idly Googling the German space industry. Best takeaway so far: the German word for spaceport is “Weltraumbahnhof,” which means space train station.

My first instinct was that this difference reflects the historical importance of trains to Germany versus ships to the United Kingdom, but since the German word for spaceship is also Raumschiff (“Raum” = space, “Schiff” = ship), that doesn’t quite hold up. Further research hasn’t resulted in a convincing reason for the choice. Airports are also called ports in German (“Flughafen”), Russian isn’t a likely source since their word, cosmodrome, derives from the Greek hippodrome, a horse racecourse. A bit of defiance against the ongoing creep of Denglisch, perhaps?

In genuine spaceport news, Germany, like Scotland, may soon become host to one or more micro-spaceports. The Scottish site of choice is Sutherland, while the German candidates are Rostock-Laage (in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) and Nordholz (Lower Saxony). Micro-spaceports can launch small rockets with commercial satellite payloads, a main focus of the upstream sector of the New Space industry.

This is all part of recent movements in Germany and Europe as a whole to foster the emerging private space sector. Last fall the Federation of German Industries (BDI) published the Berlin Space Declaration outlining eight recommendations for space policy, including the construction of micro-spaceports in Germany – I haven’t found an official English translation of it, but I’ll highlight a few more points I found interesting:

  1. The first recommendation is “Deutsche Astronautin 2024 mit zum Mond fliegen lassen”: “Send a German female astronaut along to the Moon in 2024.” Notable is both the explicit call for a female astronaut and the fact that German astronauts will still be tagging along on NASA missions for the foreseeable future. Independent access to space is a key goal for European policy-makers, but it’ll be a while – the infrastructure gap with the USA is huge.
  2. A call for a “schlankes nationales Weltraumgesetz”: a “lean national space law.” Can’t wait to read this when it comes out!
  3. Happily, one of the points mentions the need to prevent and remedy space debris (“Weltraumschrott”), a high-priority issue for the global space industry and one I’ve engaged with in my work for the Gateway Earth Development Group and at the Institute for Astronomy in Edinburgh.

The space industry is one of my main sectors of interest , so I’ll no doubt be writing more about it soon. In the meantime, please enjoy the Scots Wikipedia entry for the word spaceport.

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