Business Secretary Greg Clark marked his first visit to the site of Britain’s future spaceport in Sutherland and took the opportunity to outline some of the commercial opportunities in store for Scotland.
Viewing plans for the spaceport site, Clark discussed a number of issues with local people and businesses, commenting that due to the UK’s location, planned regulatory framework, private sector strategies and space ecosystem, the nation can become a world leader in commercial space exploration.
Clark’s visit coincides with UK Space Agency figures, revealed today, that predict the UK could compete in a high-value market to launch an estimated 2,000 satellites by 2030. In July, over £31 million in funding was announced to support the Sutherland spaceport and is a key component of the Industrial Strategy.
To Sutherland and Beyond
Commercial vertical and horizontal launch demand is, according to the government, worth a potential £3.8 billion to the economy over the next decade. In Scotland, the opening of the Sutherland spaceport has the potential to create up to 400 jobs and cement Scotland’s place in a world-changing industry.
The country is already home to a thriving space sector in which a number of pioneering companies, such as Clyde Space; which is manufacturing some of the most innovative satellites anywhere on earth.
Earlier this year, figures revealed that Glasgow is building more satellites than any other European city.
Speaking at the Sutherland spaceport, Clark said: “From our market leadership in small satellite construction to our world-leading universities Scotland and the UK comes from a position of strength in the global space sector which will be turbo boosted by the first new spaceport and our Industrial Strategy.
“However, I want to make sure that this giant leap for the UK will also deliver on the ground, that’s why I’m here today to discuss benefits in local jobs, uplifting tourism and businesses, helping to bring prosperity to all.”
Leading the Way
Figures suggest that existing ‘rideshare’ small satellite launches – which involve smaller satellites piggybacking on larger missions – are capable of meeting less than 35% of the total demand. This represents a significant gap in commercial small satellite launch provision – an area in which future UK spaceports are well placed to compete.
Chris Larmour, Chief Executive of UK-based spaceflight company, Orbex, said that while the UK already has a strong satellite manufacturing capability, continued support and investment will create more jobs and business opportunities long-term.
He said: “I don’t think anyone should underestimate the importance of what is being done here in Scotland. With Sutherland, we will have continental Europe’s first spaceport. Britain already has a very strong satellite manufacturing capability and soon, with Orbex, there will be British rockets taking those satellites into orbit.
“This end-to-end capability is unique in Europe and will create a virtuous circle, leading to more investment, more business and more jobs.”
Larmour also commented that the firm is currently assessing locations in Scotland to house a rocket factory and Spaceflight Mission Control facility – which will become Orbex’s global headquarters. Orbex hopes to announce the location of its new facility within the next two months.
For Scotland, Larmour said, this move could provide up to 130 highly-skilled jobs and create an even greater buzz over the potential of the commercial space industry.