FIA18 Recap – First UK Spaceport announced

As the dust settles on another Farnborough International Airshow, ADS is going to recap the series of important announcements and moments from the 2018 Airshow.

We start today with the first Government announcement of the week, that Sutherland in Scotland will be the location of the UK’s first ever vertical launch spaceport. Business Secretary Greg Clark emphasised in the Space Zone at FIA on Monday 16 July that the UK Space industry is important for the UK economy with £14.2 billion of turnover in the last year and the sector has grown by 71% since 2012.

The green light for the Sutherland spaceport signals a step change for the UK Space sector as the UK will be the first country in mainland Europe to have the capability to launch its own satellites into orbit. The UK is already a huge manufacturer of satellites, with the UK having built 40% of all small satellites currently in orbit.

The Government and the UK Space Agency have estimated that the commercial vertical and horizontal launch demand is worth a potential £3.8 billion to the UK economy over the next decade and will support further growth of Britain’s space sector.

UK Space Agency selected the Sutherland site because Scotland is the best place in the UK 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 world-leading spaceflight market.

Business Secretary Greg 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.”

ADS member Lockheed Martin also announced on Monday 16 July that it plans to establish vertical launch operations in Sutherland and develop innovative technologies in Reading, Berkshire with support from two UK Space Agency grants totalling £23.5 million. A further £5.5 million will go to British company Orbex to build an innovative new rocket for launch from Sutherland, as part of Government’s modern Industrial Strategy.

This is an exciting time for the UK space sector as industry’s capabilities are starting to propel the UK’s space expertise into orbit with the likes of NASA and ESA.