Plans to create a space hub around Government-owned Prestwick Airport have received a fresh funding package of £240,000 from local government and economic development authorities.
The money, supplied equally by South Ayrshire Council and Scottish Enterprise, will fund a two-year support package covering infrastructure, business development, energy reduction and supply chain development.
It includes the appointment of a new “programme manager” to be based out of the airport’s administrative offices. The move comes as the struggling operation competes to become one of the UK’s first “spaceports” delivering small satellites and tourists into low-level orbit.
Last month’s Queen’s Speech confirmed aims to drive through the complex legislation needed to certify the safe operation of space vehicles through the Modern Transport Bill.
The Department for Transport is setting up a regulatory framework to license individual sites, with Prestwick and two other Scottish locations – Campbeltown on the west coast and Stornoway in the Western Isles – among those short-listed last year.
Should Prestwick get a licence, officials say the project could deliver as many as 1,450 jobs within ten years, with £320 million of additional economic activity. The new programme manager will work alongside a variety of organisations through the Prestwick Aerospace partnership.
Eileen Howat, chief executive of South Ayrshire Council, said it is now the right time to push forward ambitious plans for Prestwick. The Scottish Government bought the loss-making airport for £1 in 2013, and is seeking to re-build its fortunes under newly-appointed chief executive Ron Smith.