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article imageScotland has been chosen to host U.K.'s first spaceport

By Karen Graham     Jul 15, 2018 in Technology
After several years of study and consideration, the British government announced July 15 that it will start development of a new spaceport in northern Scotland, while an English airport signed a deal that could also lead to launches from its facility.
The A'Mhoine Peninsula - a remote and boggy patch of land on the north coast of Scotland has been chosen as the most likely spot for the spaceport, reports the BBC.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish Government's economic and community development agency will be given £2.5 million ($3.3 million) towards the development of the facility, the U.K. Space Agency announced.
In a statement issued in advance of the start of the Farnborough International Airshow, the agency said it selected the site “because Scotland is the best place in the U.K. to reach highly sought-after satellite orbits with vertically launched rockets.” The site supports rocket launches for spacecraft operating in sun-synchronous or other highly inclined orbits.
There was some mention of an announcement possibly being made at the Farnborough 2018 Airshow, but it was unconfirmed at the time. And while today's announcement gives very few details about the facility or what company or companies may be using it, we do know that launches are expected to begin in the early 2020s.
More information is expected on July 16 at the airshow, that will include information on additional grants that will be available.
“As a nation of innovators and entrepreneurs, we want Britain to be the first place in mainland Europe to launch satellites as part of our Industrial Strategy,” said Business Secretary Greg Clark in a statement. “The U.K.’s thriving space industry, research community and aerospace supply chain put the U.K. 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 capitalize on the huge potential of the commercial space age.”
Charlotte Wright, the chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, on hearing the announcement said, “The decision to support the U.K.’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.”
But, there is more to the story
The British government has actually been looking at existing airports that could support flights of suborbital vehicles or air-launch systems. However, looking at new sites for vertical launches gave the government Scotland and possibly the Shetland Islands.
But, besides the funding for the Scotland site, the British government will also offer 2 million pounds to support the development of horizontal launch sites “subject to business case.” One such site under consideration is Cornwall Airport Newquay in southwestern England.
On July 15, officials at Cornwall Airport Newquay announced they were entering into a partnership with Virgin Orbit that will allow that company’s air-launched LauncherOne system to operate from the airport, dubbed Spaceport Cornwall. That agreement will be signed at Farnborough on Monday.
“The announcement of a strategic partnership between Virgin Orbit and Cornwall Spaceport is great news for the region and the U.K.’s ambitions for regular, reliable and responsible access to space,” said U.K. Science Minister Sam Gyimah in a statement from Spaceport Cornwall.
“This partnership could see Virgin Orbit’s innovative horizontal launch technology helping the U.K.’s small satellite industry access space from the convenience of a Spaceport in Cornwall.”
Space agency chief executive Graham Turnock said this great news is all part of the "kickstart of an exciting new era for the U.K. space industry, and this is only the beginning of our LaunchUK campaign." And that all this is happening in concert with the Farnborough 2018 Airshow will certainly make the UK shine.
More about Spaceport, Scotland, United Kingdom, Farnborough air show, Space
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