The UK's first spaceport in Sutherland, northern Scotland will be competing for a slice of the global market for satellite launches from the early 2020s, business secretary Greg Clark has claimed.
Visiting the site where the spaceport will be built, he added that it could generate as many as 400 jobs in the local economy, while stimulating the satellite and space business across the UK.
It comes after the government provided £31.5 million in funding to support the Sutherland spaceport in July, which forms part of the government's Industrial Strategy. The Sutherland spaceport will be developed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
The government claims that the commercial market for launches could be worth £3.8 billion to the UK economy over the next decade, and will support a burgeoning space sector.
The UK already has a significant satellite manufacturing sector, which includes the presence of multinationals such as Airbus and Thales Alenia Space, as well as British Aerospace, Clyde Space, Hawker Siddeley Dynamics, and Surrey Satellite Technology. Other companies in the broader space sector include Moog-ISP, Orbex and Reaction Engines.
Indeed, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy claims that the UK builds more small satellites than any other country in Europe - with Glasgow a leading centre.
"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," said Clark.
He continued: "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."
Clark believes there is a gap in the market that the Sutherland spaceport can exploit. Currently, small satellite launches piggyback on larger missions, but this is increasingly incapable of meeting growing demand.
"The international space sector is set to grow very significantly in the coming years. We want to ensure our businesses are ready to benefit from the opportunities this will create… We'll be working to develop supply chain opportunities locally and across our region.
"We will also use the spaceport's presence to attract and encourage further business activity and investment here in the longer term," said HIE project director Roy Kirk.
Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex, added: "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."
Orbex, he continued, is planning to build a rocket factory and Spaceflight Mission Control facility in Scotland. It is currently testing its Prime rocket and has secured £30 million in funding. "We have signed up our first customer for 20 satellite launches," he added.
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