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Leadership / Digital Transformation

UK to Get First Spaceport: Expected Boost for Tech Industry

The UK Space Agency has granted £23.5 million towards the construction of a vertical launch spaceport in Sutherland. Lockheed Martin, working with spaceflight company Orbex, will build the launch pad on the north coast of Scotland.

Successful construction will give the UK its first launchpad to launch satellites. The government has been mulling the idea of home spaceports for a decade now, and has updated the legislation that would make them possible.

There is a vibrant small satellite manufacturing sector in the UK, and enabling customers to launch their spacecraft locally should give an added boost to the industry.

As Computer Business Review reported in May, the trade association for the UK’s space industry has published an ambitious growth plan for the sector that aims to double the worth of space industrial activities across the economy from £250 billion to £500 billion.

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Any successful growth in the UK space sector will have a significant knock-on effect on the tech industry, with a particular emphasis of the programme on “real-time global awareness, navigation, analytics and security for the advanced data economy.”#

As Evan Dixon, CEO, European Broadband Retail at Viasat Inc. put it in an emailed statement: “Critics may prefer the UK Government to look closer to home rather than outer space, but investments in space technology quickly return commercial applications. By looking to the stars, we bring innovation, employment and business growth to the UK economy.”

He added: “Indeed, space is one of the eight great technologies for UK. It is a dynamic, fast growing sector which employs some of the country’s top talent, as well as contributing to economic growth and other important national needs, such as Earth observation and satellite communications. 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. Not to mention national heroes like Tim Peake.”

Business Secretary Greg Clark commented in the release that: “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.”

“The UK’s thriving space industry, research community and aerospace supply chain put the UK in a leading position to develop both vertical and horizontal 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.”

Practical Experience

Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex commented in the announcement: “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,” he added.

Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, said that: “The UK’s space sector is thriving and satellite benefits our lives every day, from banking to transport, and agriculture to entertainment.”

“Our Space Industry Act will allow the UK to tap into and develop new commercial space opportunities, with the potential for hundreds of new regional jobs and billions of revenue for British business across the country.”

“Today’s announcement is not only exciting for Sutherland, but with industry expertise up and down the country it will drive growth and further regional opportunities in England, Scotland and Wales.”


This article is from the CBROnline archive: some formatting and images may not be present.

CBR Staff Writer

CBR Online legacy content.