Funding confirmed: UK’s first spaceport to be built in Scotland

The UK is set to build on its world-leading expertise in aerospace with the development of vertical and horizontal spaceports in the Northern Highlands of Scotland.

Plans to launch microsatellites into space from the northern Highlands of Scotland have taken a major step forward.

The UK Space Agency (UKSA) has announced £2.5m grant funding to support a project led by regional development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) that aims to create the UK’s first spaceport and support around 400 jobs.

HIE has confirmed a major funding package for the project totalling to £17.3m, including the £2.5m from UKSA and £9.8m from HIE which has been approved in principle by the HIE Board, subject to conditions.

While details of the package are still to be confirmed, the enterprise agency expects to attract further contributions from partners that will offset its share of the overall cost.

Over the next 18 months, HIE will prepare a planning application to the Highland Council, which is expected to be submitted late next year.

As well as supporting HIE, the UKSA has awarded research and development grant funding to two international launch companies that are its partners in the Sutherland project – Lockheed Martin and UK-based early stage spaceflight company, Orbex.

Patrick Wood, Lockheed Martin’s UK country executive for Space, said: “The UK Space Agency’s strategic vision for a world-class launch market will position the nation for a very bright future in space.

“Lockheed Martin will apply its 50 years of experience in small satellite engineering, launch services and ground operations, as well as a network of UK-based and international teammates, to deliver new technologies, new capabilities and new economic opportunities.”

Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex, said: “Orbex is one of the very few private spaceflight companies with credible practical experience in the development of launch vehicles and rocket engines.

“With the support of this grant from the UK Space Agency, we will soon be launching small satellites into orbit from British soil and helping to transform the UK into an important hub for commercial space launch operations.”

Following its call for grant proposals in Spring 2017, the UK Space Agency assessed 26 proposals to determine what would deliver the best value for money and strategic opportunity for the growth of the UK space sector.

A number of sites across the UK are developing their spaceport plans and engaging with regulators, demonstrating the scale of the industry’s ambition and confidence in a future UK spaceflight market, which could attract companies from all over the world to invest in Britain. Launches will be regulated under the Space Industry Act 2018.

According to the government, the UK and US will also soon begin formal negotiations towards a Technology Safeguards Agreement, which will establish the legal and technical safeguards that can support US space launch vehicles to operate from UK launch sites.

The government stated, that attracting US operators in the UK could enhance the space capabilities and boost the whole market.