Scottish north coast chosen for UK's first spaceport


The lure of commercial riches in space is spurring a variety of plans to help launch all the components necessary for a fully functioning orbital economy.

Britain on Monday announced plans for its first spaceport on a remote peninsula in north-western Scotland as part of a major redevelopment of its space industry. Initial funding of £2.5 million will go to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop the vertical launch site in Sutherland which will use a combination of proven and innovative rocket technologies to pave the way for a world-leading spaceflight market.

As part of the Space Industry Act announced earlier in the year, the United Kingdom will begin building its first vertical launch spaceport in northern Scotland, on the A'Mhoine Peninsula.

Clark will announce further details of the project at the Farnborough Air Show today.

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. This location ensures easier access for satellites bound for geostationary orbit. "By looking to the stars, we bring innovation, employment and business growth to the United Kingdom economy".

See also: What does the new government industrial strategy mean for CTOs?

Graham Turnock, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, added: "This 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". There are now several locations in the United Kingdom vying to host a horizontal facility including Cornwall Airport Newquay, Glasgow Prestwick Airport and Llanbedr Airport in Wales.

Lockheed Martin plans on bringing its Electron rocket to the Sutherland spaceport, which now flies out of New Zealand.

The launch infrastructure boom raises questions about the speed and scope of commercial activities in space.

The space industry Bill cleared its House of Commons stages in March, paving the way for the spaceport. Billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are also planning launch facilities in Texas for their growing space businesses.

British spaceport will be focused on satellites with polar orbits.

Evan Dixon, CEO, European Broadband Retail at Viasat Inc., said: "Critics may prefer the UK Government to look closer to home rather than outer space, but investments in space technology quickly return commercial applications".

British companies already produce almost half of the world's small satellites and a quarter of the world's telecommunications satellites.

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.

It is understood that funding will be available for further spaceports with the government viewing the Sutherland project as the first step on the way to a national space programme.