UK Government announces funding for spaceports

'Great British Space Age' will see rocket launches in three years, says government

Two separate government grants worth a combined £23.5 million will assist Lockheed Martin in establishing vertical launch operations at Sutherland using proven technology and to develop an innovative new system in Reading for deploying small satellites. Lockheed Martin was awarded $31 million for two United Kingdom projects: Establishing vertical launch operations in Sutherland and a development program slated for Reading to deploy a new "delivery vehicle" to deploy as many as six small satellites.

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

HIE will work with a group that includes U.S. aerospace company Lockheed Martin, BBC notes, with a goal of having launches in the early 2020s.

Other horizontal launch sites in Cornwall, Glasgow and Snowdonia may follow, and the government has set aside a £2m development fund for them. However, business secretary Greg Clark and the UK Space Agency chose A'Mhoine, an area previoulsly best known for Mull-A-Mhouine single malt and otters, as the most viable for launching vertical take off rockets. The state estimates that commercial vertical and horizontal launch demand is worth a potential GBP 3.8 billion to the United Kingdom economy over the next decade. Such an agreement would make it easier for USA companies to launch from a British spaceport, Bloomberg reported.

Finding ways to get low cost access to space is important for the UK.

UK Space Agency chief executive Graham Turnock said the spaceport grant would "help kick-start an exciting new era for the UK space industry". "The global space sector is growing and we want to ensure the region is ready to reap the economic benefits that will be generated from this fantastic opportunity".

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The news follows only a day after Paul Everitt, chief executive of ADS Group, a trade organisation representing the aerospace, defence and space industries, warned that Britain faces an "erosion" of investment in its space, security and defence sectors unless a good Brexit deal is struck with the European Union, on the BBC.

According to a BBC report, the space sector now generates more than £11billion for the economy annually, and employs around 34,000 people.

Orbex CEO Chris Larmour said minimising the environmental impact of launches was a key consideration in the rocket's design.

"I know that this is very, very early stages and there has been a lot of work behind the scenes".

"The global space sector is on the rise, and we want to make sure that our region will be able to derive economic benefits thanks to this wonderful opportunity", said Charlotte Wright, Director General of the HIE.

"The significant investment, supported by HIE, and an estimated 400 jobs is a welcome boost to the local community and wider Scottish space sector which we are committed to see grow".

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