UK’s first spaceport gets £2.5m funding to launch satellites

Virgin Orbit's aircraft 'Cosmic girl'

Image Virgin Orbit's aircraft 'Cosmic girl'

The government has chosen the remote A'Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland, Scotland to host the UK's first spaceport, following the introduction of the Space Industry Bill earlier this year.

Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, which is backing the project, will also be given £23.5 million from the space agency to "establish vertical launch operations at Sutherland using proven technology and to develop an innovative new system in Reading for deploying small satellites".

Under the plans announced on today, United States group Lockheed and its partners will receive £23.5m in grants from the UK Space Agency which will go towards establishing launch operations at Sutherland, and developing a new system for deploying small satellites in Reading, southern England.

Over £5 million will also be provided to UK-based Orbex to build a new rocket to launch satellites from Sutherland.

"We want Britain to be the first place in mainland Europe to launch satellites as part of our Industrial Strategy", Mr Clark said.

The government estimates that the commercial space sector will be worth £3.8 billion ($5 billion) to the United Kingdom economy over the next decade.

Speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Scotland radio programme, he said: "What we are looking to do is be the first spaceport in the world to offer dedicated launch to very small satellites". The UK Space Agency is a UK Government body.

The UK is a leading player in the space race today, with many companies working on small satellite technology.

Although the construction of heavy lift spaceports is a huge undertaking - as demonstrated by Russia's struggles to bring the $7.5bn Vostochny Cosmodrome into being - the cost of building a facility to launch small rockets carrying small satellites is relatively modest - so much so that start-up companies can take on the task.

According to the agency's chief executive Graham Turnock, the satellite industry faces "significant barriers to growth". This is in Sutherland - located on the north coast of Scotland - which should be recognizable to anyone familiar with The Proclaimers' "Letter From America". Officials there announced late July 15 that they are entering into a partnership with Virgin Orbit that could allow that company's air-launched LauncherOne system to operate from the airport, dubbed Spaceport Cornwall. "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".

"But I think the hard work starts now to move forward and make sure that we actually realise this".

The Sutherland spaceport, which could see lift-off from the early 2020s and create hundreds of new jobs, is one of a number of Government-backed space projects that will be announced at the Farnborough International Airshow. "We are committed to supporting a commercial market for access to space in the United Kingdom, and we will continue to engage with any company who seeks to operate here".

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