Sutherland expected to host UK's first spaceport

Marco Green
July 16, 2018

Highlands and Islands Enterprise chief executive Charlotte Wright said: "The decision to support the UK's first spaceport in Sutherland is tremendous news for our region and for Scotland as a whole". Three other sites will receive boosts for horizontal air-launch operations.

The UK Space Agency awarded £2.5 million ($3.3 million) in funding for a proposed vertical launch spaceport in Sutherland, Scotland, it announced Monday.

The consortium behind the Sutherland bid includes Lockheed Martin.

The A'Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland would be used for vertical rocket and satellite launches.

Britain wants to build its first spaceport for launching satellites in Scotland, with the government kick-starting the project by handing nearly 30 million pounds ($40 million) in grants to companies including Lockheed Martin (LMT.N).

And we will invest a further £2 million in horizontal launch sites - Prestwick is in the running for that and I wish them well.

The Unst project also wants to launch small satellites vertically from Lamba Ness, and a report previous year commissioned for the space agency suggested it was the best location in the United Kingdom for doing so due to its unobstructed route into orbit.

Despite looking empty the space around Earth is cluttered with junk
Image A satellite orbiting around Earth

In a partnership due to be signed at the Farnborough International Airshow Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit is seeking to begin launches from Newquay by 2021, using a modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft called "Cosmic Girl".

"The Cornwall partnership allows us to grasp important market share, gain instant global market credibility and, with the technology already being tested in the USA, further lower our risk", Patrick McCall, managing director for Virgin group and chairman of Virgin Orbit's board of directors, said in a news release.

With the commercial space sector estimated to be worth £3.8 billion to the United Kingdom economy, it's positive to see the country's government investing in long term, technology-centric projects.

It is expected to create hundreds of jobs.

Britain's space industry is considered a success story: it is growing four times faster than the rest of the United Kingdom economy and the country has a 7 percent share of the global space industry.

The United Kingdom already has a thriving satellite industry, fueled in part by potential spaceport customers such as San Francisco-based Spire Global. The opportunities are considerable, launching a new age for British industry.

The UK Space Agency said the move could pave the way for spaceflights from the site between Tongue and Durness.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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