Scotland now in spaceport race with Europe

A new space race is underway after a Scotland was warned plans for a Sutherland spaceport could be gazumped by Scandinavia.

Satellite launches, like this one in France, could become a common sight in Sutherland. Picture: Getty
Satellite launches, like this one in France, could become a common sight in Sutherland. Picture: Getty

Earlier this year it was announced vertical rocket and satellite launches would take place from the A’Mhoine peninsula. The UK Space Agency said it would pave the way for spaceflights.

American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin has won two grants totalling £23.5million for the scheme.

But a new report has warned that Sweden and Norway are pushing on with a rival launch site in Kiruna, Lapland.

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The UK Space Agency believes European competition would hamper the success of any Scotland becoming a world leader in satellite launches.

The research, commissioned by the UK Space Agency from business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, makes it clear the success of either spaceport is will depend on how quickly it can be set up.

The report said: “There is strong support for the argument that the UK must be first to market to ensure the long-term success of the UK launch programme.

“The market is forming and there is an opportunity to be ‘disruptive’, there is a short-term opportunity to create market demand by developing a commercial spaceport. Spaceports need to be commercially focused and low cost.”

The report concluded that “first-mover advantage” will be important particularly because there will be very few European spaceports in operation.

The UK currently produces a quarter of all the world’s telecommunications satellites and the report said a domestic spaceport could cement the country’s position as a world leader.

A UK Space Agency spokesman said: “As part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, the LaunchUK programme aims to develop the first ever space port in Britain and the first on mainland Europe.

“The demand for small satellite launch is forecast to increase rapidly over the next decade, and commercial providers believe it is important to move quickly to meet this demand.”

Earlier this year Highlands and Islands Enterprise was awarded £2.5million from the UK government to develop the spaceport in Sutherland. It could be operations in five years.

Sutherland was the first vertical launch site to be awarded grant cash, ahead of others at Unst, Shetland and North Uist.

The space agency has said the spaceflight market is potentially worth £3.8 billion to the UK economy over the next decade.