Spaceports for both ends of Britain

Cornelia Mascio
Luglio 16, 2018

The UK Space Agency determined that the spot on Scotland's north coast was the best place to target highly sought-after satellite orbits with vertically launched rockets.

"This partnership could see Virgin Orbit's innovative horizontal launch technology helping the UK's small satellite industry access space from the convenience of a Spaceport in Cornwall".

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is expected to be given £2.5m from the United Kingdom government to develop the spaceport in Sutherland.

A peninsula on Scotland's north coast has been identified as the frontrunner in the race to become the site of the UK's first spaceport.

The British government has selected a spot in Sutherland, on the A'Mhoine Peninsula in the Scottish Highlands, as the site of the country's first vertical-launch spaceport.

The consortium behind the Sutherland bid includes Lockheed Martin.

The U.K. Space Agency said that, in addition to the funding for the Sutherland launch site, it will offer 2 million pounds to support development of horizontal launch sites "subject to business case".

The Newquay site, known as Spaceport Cornwall, has already recruited a satellite launch provider: Virgin Orbit, a California-based company that's part of British billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Group.

Virgin will use a modified 747 jumbo jet - previously used by Virgin Atlantic - called "Cosmic Girl" to deliver one of its first launches outside the US.

"The Cornwall partnership allows us to grasp important market share, gain instant global market credibility and, with the technology already being tested in the USA, further lower our risk", Patrick McCall, managing director for Virgin group and chairman of Virgin Orbit's board of directors, said in a news release.

It is expected to create hundreds of jobs.

The spaceports could be worth £3.8bn to the UK economy over the next decade, according to the UK Space Agency.

"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".

"In Spire, Scotland already sports Europe's most advanced and prolific satellite manufacturing capability, and with a spaceport right next door, enabling clockwork-like launches, we can finally get our space sector supply chain to be truly integrated", Spire CEO Peter Platzer said in today's news release.

UK Science Minister Sam Gyimah added: "The announcement of a strategic partnership between Virgin Orbit and Cornwall Spaceport is great news for the region and the UK's ambitions for regular, reliable and responsible access to space".

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