Scotland’s north coast to be UK’s first spaceport

The UK Space Agency has selected the A’Mhoine Peninsula near Tongue in Sutherland on the north coast of Scotland for the first vertical launch site.

The Space Agency is making available a new £2 million fund to boost horizontal spaceport development across Britain, UK Business Secretary Greg Clark will announce on Monday.

And Scotland is the best place in the UK from which to reach in-demand satellite orbits with vertically launched rockets.

Initial funding of £2.5 million will go to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop the vertical launch site in Sutherland, which will use a combination of proven and innovative rocket technologies to pave the way for a spaceflight market.

This will grow the UK space economy through regular access to space.

Low cost access to space is important for the UK’s space industry, which builds more small satellites than any other country — with Glasgow building more than any other city in Europe.

Charlotte Wright, Chief Executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), said: “The decision to support the UK’s first spaceport in Sutherland is tremendous news for our region and for Scotland as a whole.

“The international 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.”

Clark said: “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.”

Horizontal launch sites have significant potential in a future UK spaceflight market, which could attract companies from all over the world to invest in Britain.

David Mundell, the UK government’s Secretary of State for Scotland, said: “The UK Government is driving the commercial space age and Scotland is leading the way.

“We are investing £2.5 million in a vertical launch site in Sutherland which will create hundreds of new jobs.

“And we will invest a further £2 million in horizontal launch sites – Prestwick is in the running for that and I wish them well.

“Scotland is uniquely positioned to pilot the UK’s commercial space sector and the UK Government recognises this pot.”

Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “This spaceport grant will help to kick-start an exciting new era for the UK space industry, and this is only the beginning of our LaunchUK campaign.

“We are committed to supporting a commercial market for access to space in the UK, and we will continue to engage with any company who seeks to operate here.”

Will Whitehorn, chairman of Clyde Space said: “From designing and building the very first satellite in Scotland, Clyde Space has grown and become a front runner in small-satellite manufacturing.

“Having a spaceport located in Scotland will bring about a whole host of commercial advantages and not only to our operations in Glasgow, but to the entire space sector in the whole of the UK.”