Britain's first spaceport to be built on a far-flung Scottish peninsula

18 July, 2018, 17:41 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • British astronaut Tim Peake speaks with UK Prime Minister Theresa May at Farnborough. The UK will build its first spaceport in Scotland. Getty

The site has been selected by the UK Space Agency because it enables small satellite launch into polar orbits.

The government is planning a spaceport in Sutherland in the Highlands, 30 miles from John o'Groats, and one at Newquay, a similar distance from Land's End in Cornwall.

It is envisaged the Orbex rockets will launch satellites to altitudes of up to 1,250km from a proposed spaceport in Sutherland on the north coast of Scotland, a project which was also announced today after securing £2.5m government funding from the UK Space Agency. But, besides the funding for the Scotland site, the British government will also offer 2 million pounds to support the development of horizontal launch sites "subject to business case".

To aid the construction, the UK Space Agency is granting Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) £2.5 million to develop a vertical launch pad.

The cash is aimed at boosting their sub-orbital flight, satellite launch and spaceplane ambitions.

As part of the work, Lockheed Martin has been awarded $31 million in two grants to establish the launch operations in Sutherland, and to develop a Small Launch Orbital Maneuvering Vehicle to be used in the upper stage of the company's own vertical launch system.

US and British officials will soon begin formal talks on a deal to establish "legal and technical safeguards to support USA space launch vehicles" to be used in the United Kingdom, the UK Space Agency said.

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In Scotland, companies such as ClydeSpace and Spire Global are already active in the small-satellite industry.

"The market in satellites up to 100kg, and especially up to 10kg, is growing massively at the moment but nobody is really providing the kind of launch capabilities that those companies are looking for".

As a nation of innovators and entrepreneurs, we want Britain to be the first place in mainland Europe to launch satellites as part of our modern Industrial Strategy.

"So this would put the United Kingdom in an even stronger position as a leading commercial space nation".

"The spaceport grant will help to kick-start an exciting new era for the UK space industry, and this is only the beginning of our LaunchUK campaign", says Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency. However, business secretary Greg Clark and the UK Space Agency chose A'Mhoine, an area previoulsly best known for Mull-A-Mhouine single malt and otters, as the most viable for launching vertical take off rockets. "It is a dynamic, fast-growing sector which employs some of the country's top talent, as well as contributing to economic growth and other important national needs, such as Earth observation and satellite communications".

Scotland is uniquely positioned to pilot the UK's commercial space sector and the UK Government recognises this potential.

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