There are key characteristics that make the Highlands and Islands a good location from which to launch satellites: its northerly latitude; north-facing coastline; climate; sparsity of population; a suitable supply chain offering key services, such as engineering and logistics; and its accessibility for UK and wider European markets.
Given the market opportunity and these characteristics, there are three potential launch sites:
UK VERTICAL LAUNCH SUTHERLAND
The UK Vertical Launch (UKVL) Sutherland is progressing the development of a UKVL spaceport delivering a capability that coincides with the growth of the emerging small satellite market.
The proposed spaceport design offers affordable range operations and services, with launch infrastructure and processing facilities that are capable of supporting a variety of small launch vehicles.
The proposed operating model is a commercial one, with a private sector operator to be procured. The intention is to provide flexible attributes that accommodate multiple launch vehicle types. The main users of the launch site will be private sector operators of a vertical launch system.
KEY CONTACT: ROY KIRK CAITHNESS AND SUTHERLAND, AREA MANAGER, HIE
TELEPHONE: +44 (0)1847 805 209
Shetland Space Centre (SSC) supports in-orbit satellite operations, from cost-effective vertical launch of satellites to satellite command and control, tracking and data download.
Shetland’s most northerly island of Unst was identified in a UKSA-commissioned report as the best location in the UK for vertical launch of satellites. Both Sun- Synchronous and Polar orbits can be accessed directly without any costly dog-leg manoeuvres.
The location also benefits from clear airspace with no restrictions due to trans-Atlantic flightpaths or military training areas. Furthermore, the location is the best in the UK for tracking, control and data download of and from in-orbit satellites.
Shetland’s logistical capabilities and supply chain, built to serve the oil and gas industry over the past 40 years, is well-placed to support space development, from heavy lifting to handling of hydrogen peroxide and everything in between.
KEY CONTACT: SCOTT HAMMOND, PROGRAMME DIRECTOR
TELEPHONE: +44 (0)7542 546 829
SpacePort 1 plans to develop the UK’s first vertical launch commercial spaceport at Scolpaig, North Uist, Outer Hebrides.
The SpacePort 1 consortium brings together partners with a unique combination of the technical expertise, existing physical assets, intellectual property and Space industry knowledge together with the commercial, regulatory, governmental and agency relationships necessary to develop a commercially successful and safe vertical launch service.
The partners believe that their proposal, which offers a unique combination of characteristics including the location and established expertise, can provide the UK with its first vertical launch site quickly, safely and at competitive cost. SpacePort 1 also includes the redevelopment of a former Ministry of Defence site to create an Enterprise Zone to offer significant opportunities within the wider Space launch activity and servicing chain.
KEY CONTACT: Mark Roberts, Director
TELEPHONE: +44 (0)7834 507 646
H&I Space Launch Project Advances
Plans to launch microsatellites into space from the northern Highlands of Scotland have taken a major step forward with new funding announced at Farnborough in July 2018.
At the Show Business Secretary Greg Clark declared that, “..,. we want Britain to be the first place in mainland Europe to launch satellites. 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.” Initial funding of £2.5 million from the UK Space Agency will go to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop the vertical launch site in Sutherland which could see lift-off from the early 2020s and create an estimated 400 jobs. HIE also announced £9.8m its own funding going towards the 17.3m Sutherland project now expected to attract further contributions from partners following these commitments. It will serve innovative rocket technology to pave the way for a world-leading spaceflight market in Britain. The UK Space Agency selected the Sutherland site because Scotland is the best place in the UK to reach highly sought-after satellite orbits with vertically-launched rockets.
The site could host up to six vertical launches per year of a new generation micro satellites. Additionally, two international launch companies that are partners in the Sutherland project, – Lockheed Martin and UK-based early stage spaceflight company, Orbex, have been awarded R&D funding by the UK Space Agency.
Horizontal launch sites also have potential to play a key role in the UK’s future spaceflight market. Sites such as Newquay, Glasgow Prestwick and Snowdonia will also be boosted by a new £2m fund to grow their sub-orbital flight, satellite launch and spaceplane ambitions.
Also in Farnborough Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling noted that, “The commercial space sector is estimated to be worth a potential £3.8 billion to the UK economy over the next decade and will support Britain’s modern Industrial Strategy by creating high-skilled jobs and boosting local economies”. Space Launch was a major theme at Farnborough this Year.