The UK Space Agency (UKSA) has backed a remote area of Scotland as the location for the UK’s first spaceport.
UKSA has said it is giving £2.5m to support the development of a new spaceport in the Moine, also known as A’Mhoine, in the north of Sutherland.
The site will be used to launch the new generation of small rockets that will carry micro-satellites used for communication and observation, with the first launch billed for some time in early 2020s. The project is expected to create 40 high-skilled jobs locally, as well as 400 new jobs throughout the UK supply chain.
The Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the regional development agency behind the project, has said the UKSA funding is part of a larger £17.3m package aimed at getting the project off the ground.
HIE is also working closely with Lockheed Martin and a UK-based space flight company Orbex on the project.
Charlotte Wright, chief executive for HIE, said: “We’ll be working to develop supply chain opportunities locally and across our region, and to use the spaceport’s presence to attract and encourage further business activity and investment over many years ahead.
“We are also determined that this project will deliver strong community benefits, and our input at this early stage enables us to engage with local people to ensure the presence of the spaceport is a really positive development for this part of Sutherland.”
Announcing the funding, business secretary Greg Clark said the UK’s “thriving space industry, research community and aerospace supply chain” put it in a leading position for developing launch sites. “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,” he said.
The site was selected by UKSA both because its location made it suitable for launching satellites into the necessary orbits, but also because the site presented the best business case.
The site is still in its early stages and HIE said it intends to submit a planning application to the local council later next year. Once compete the site is expected to host up to six launches a year.
UKSA has also announced an additional £2m of funding to support new, non-traditional ‘horizontal’ launch sites in the UK, including in Glasgow Prestwick. It did not mention whether a spaceport project in Snowdonia was set to receive any funding.
The government estimates the commercial space sector to be potentially worth £3.8bn to the UK economy, and developing the industry is part of its industrial strategy.
Separately Clarke also announced at the Farnborough Airshow a £343m aerospace fund to boost SMEs and the supply chain.
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