Two Scottish space firms have received £8.5 million from the European Space Agency (ESA) to boost the production of space technologies.
Funding will be split between the two firms, with £6 million going to orbital launch services company Orbex and £2.5 million to Edinburgh-based Skyrora. Both companies will begin launch services for the ESA in 2022.
The Scottish space firms are gaining the fund through the ESA’s Boost! initiative, which provides co-funding, project guidance and access to testing facilities to entrepreneurs from EU member states who are developing new space-based tech.
Orbex received the largest Boost! award so far to support the development of their Prime launch vehicle which will send small satellites into orbit from its Space Hub Sutherland in 2023.
The Prime rocket is being built in Orbex’s Forres design and manufacturing site which currently employs 40 people and is looking to expand further to cater to the growing market for UK launch.
Skyrora said it intends to use the funding to complete the development of its Skyrora XL launch vehicle which will carry small satellites into orbit. The firm says this will trigger “onward job creation” across the UK’s space, manufacturing and engineering sectors.
The funding will also enable Skyrora and Orbex to benefit from ESA’s facilities, technical teams and business networks.
Commenting on the funding award, Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “The UK’s space industry is thriving and we have bold ambitions to be Europe’s leading destination for small satellite launches, developing world-class commercial spaceflight capability up and down the country.
“Today’s funding for two of our most innovative space businesses is not only a step forward for UK spaceflight, but it will also help to create highly skilled jobs and local opportunities as we build back better from the pandemic.”
Ian Annett, Deputy CEO of the UK Space Agency, said: “This funding is great news for the UK space sector and will ensure companies such as Orbex and Skyrora really are at the forefront of the European space industry.
“This support to our thriving space sector, alongside our flexible regulations and strong international agreements, means the UK is well placed to benefit from the new commercial opportunities UK launch will bring.”
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This funding announcement comes as the UK space sector continues to see exponential growth, with future hopes of being at the forefront of the global commercial small satellite launch market.
According to a recent UK Government led Space Sector Report, the UK space sector has trebled in size in real terms since 2000. With a turnover of £13.7 billion (2014/15), the UK currently captures between 6.3% and 7.7% of the global market.
This is the second funding boost for Moray-based Orbex over the last few months, with the firm securing £18 million in December last year to accelerate new UK space projects.
Skyrora also announced the creation of more than 170 new jobs in Scotland with the establishment of a new rocket engine test site in July last year.
The company said its new testing facility will create a range of technical jobs in manufacturing and operations, with roles ranging from mechanical engineering to electronics for avionics systems.