The government has chosen the remote A'Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland, Scotland to host the UK's first spaceport, following the introduction of the Space Industry Bill earlier this year.
As well as being relatively uninhabited, the Peninsula is also the best place in the UK from which to launch rockets vertically to put small satellites, which normally circle the Earth's poles, into orbit.
To aid the construction, the UK Space Agency is granting Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) £2.5 million to develop a vertical launch pad. HIE will also work with a consortium of other firms, including Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed plans to bring its Rocket Lab Electron rocket, which was launched into orbit for the first time this year, to Scotland. The craft currently flies from New Zealand, but the British version would have parts developed and built at Ampthill in Bedfordshire, Harwell in Oxfordshire and in Reading.
HIE chief executive Charlotte Wright 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."
The Sutherland port would be a European first. While the European Space Agency does own a spaceport, it is located around the globe in French Guiana, South America.
Other UK locations are also being discussed, with plans to build spaceports in Cornwall, Argyll and Wales. Business Secretary Greg Clark says that the government has set aside £50 million, of which £2 million will go towards investigations into a ‘horizontal launch' spaceport, using a modified aeroplane.
The UK is a leading player in the space race today, with many companies working on small satellite technology. The BBC says, ‘Having spaceports would allow UK industry to offer the full "turn key" product to their customers - from design, to build, to launch.'
The government aims to have the Sutherland port operating by the early 2020s.
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