Britain backs Scottish spaceport plan with $40 million in grants

Britain is keen to boost its space sector

Britain is keen to boost its space sector

The UK government said U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin would establish the launch operations in Sutherland, and develop "innovative technologies" with support from two UK Space Agency grants totalling £23.5m.

But the UK Government also announced a new £2 million development fund for horizontal launch spaceports across the UK at sites such as Llanbedr in Gwynedd as well as Prestwick in Ayrshire, Cornwall's Newquay and Campbeltown in Argyll and Bute - subject to a successful business case.

The a "geographically strategic location for launch" with its northern latitudes, and well-placed to reach polar and near-polar orbits, the UK Space Agency said.

With the money in place, the companies will work together to develop the Scottish launch site, enabling it to host small satellite launches in the early 2020s.

UK's Business Secretary, Greg Clark, said: "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 Industrial Strategy".

"This will build on our global reputation for manufacturing small satellites and help the whole country capitalise on the huge potential of the commercial space age". "There is a significant launch backlog for small satellites globally and Orbex is primed to give industry and science a cost-effective, reliable and responsive route into space, directly from Europe". The agency believes it will be a "highly sought after" capability, particularly for earth observation satellites.

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The U.K. produces nearly half of the small satellites and about a quarter of the world's telecommunications satellites, according to the space agency.

According to the head of the agency, Graham Turnock, the new space port will "help kick-start an exciting new era for the United Kingdom space industry".

"This investment will be key towards meeting the objectives outlined in the UK Space Industry Bill and will help to drive further innovation and employment back into the British economy". The state estimates that commercial vertical and horizontal launch demand is worth a potential GBP 3.8 billion to the United Kingdom economy over the next decade.

Today, Britain's space industry is worth an impressive £18.1 billion and ministers want to see that growth to be worth around $52.9 billion by 2030. By building a spaceport, Scotland aims to create a fully integrated supply chain - to manufacture, launch and operate satellites.

"The Cornwall partnership allows us to grasp important market share, gain instant global launch market credibility and, with the technology already being tested in the USA, further lower our risk", said Patrick McCall, chairman of the board of Virgin Orbit, said in the Cornwall statement.

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