Scotland chosen as site for first British space port

Gwen Vasquez
July 18, 2018

The site will support rocket takeoffs, while three other sites will support space missions launched from aircraft.

A traditional "vertical" rocket launch pad will be built in Sutherland, on the north coast of Scotland, to put small satellites into orbit.

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

Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work, Derek Mackay, said: "The development of a small-satellite launch facility at the Moine, Sutherland, is a significant first step towards stimulating space sector activity across the whole of Scotland and beyond". HIE will then work closely with space tech companies, like U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, to begin launching rockets.

This venture was based on Rocket Labs' two-stage Electron launch vehicle, which is powered by an innovative Rutherford engine that uses electric motors to drive turbopumps, and was the first oxygen-hydrocarbon engine to use 3D printing for all primary components.

Another £2 million (about $2.65 million) will be invested in horizontal launch sites across the UK.

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

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"This historic "pathfinder" launch for the United Kingdom will also demonstrate the tremendous potential small satellites and CubeSats have across a wide range of commercial and government data collection applications", said Wood. The BBC says, 'Having spaceports would allow United Kingdom industry to offer the full "turn key" product to their customers - from design, to build, to launch'. "We believe, as the UK Space Agency does, that this effort will help bring the UK to the forefront of the rapidly-growing, global small satellite market and support the UK's maturing space supply chain".

"The worldwide space sector is set to grow very significantly in the coming years, and we want to ensure that our businesses are ready to reap the economic benefits that will be generated", she said.

According to Government figures, the global space economy market is valued at between £155 billion and £190 billion, and it is estimated to grow to £400 billion by 2030.

Noted space cadet Virgin founder Richard Branson has his eye on another possible site - Newquay in Cornwall.

A British version of this rocket is to be developed and would have a propulsion unit and satellite dispenser built at Ampthill in Bedfordshire, Harwell in Oxfordshire, and in Reading, Berkshire.

HIE chief executive Charlotte Wright said the Sutherland project could act as a catalyst "to stimulate further space-related investment" across the Highlands and Islands.

"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.

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