The UK Space Agency (UKSA) believes the company’s plans to move its UK Pathfinder Launch to the Shetland site, at Lamba Ness on Unst, will both deliver long-term value and help establish a sustainable, commercial launch market as part of the UK’s spaceflight programme, dubbed LaunchUK.
Shetland Space Centre anticipates that by 2024, the spaceport site could support a total of 605 jobs in Scotland including 140 locally and 210 across the wider Shetland region. A further 150 jobs will also be created through wider manufacturing and support services.
“We want the UK to be the best place in Europe to launch satellites, attracting innovative businesses from all over the world and creating hundreds of high-skilled jobs,” said the UK’s Science Minister, Government Amanda Solloway.”
“The potential to have multiple spaceports in Scotland demonstrates the scale of our ambition, and I want to support industry by pressing ahead with our plans during this challenging time.”
As mentioned, the UKSA says it will continue to fully support Space Hub Sutherland, which was originally mooted as the company’s spaceport location. This will be through grant funding to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop the spaceport infrastructure and to UK-based launch partner, Orbex. This is to prepare its Prime rocket to launch from the site in 2022.
An economic assessment of the Spaceport Sutherland site reported in 2019 that the site is due to create over 60 high-skilled jobs in Sutherland and Caithness, and 250 jobs in the wider area.
“The UK has a vibrant space sector, which can stimulate the national as well as regional economies,” said Nik Smith, UK Country Executive at Lockheed Martin. “As a long-standing strategic partner to the UK, Lockheed Martin is committed to building on its proud heritage to support the UK government’s role of growing capabilities in space, exciting imagination and advancing the frontiers of science.”
“From the outset our focus has been on realising the greatest economic benefit for the UK through the Spaceflight programme. The transfer of our UK spaceflight operations to Shetland will not only broaden launch options available in the UK, but also ensure the economic benefits of these endeavours are felt more widely.”
Watching developments closely will be Spaceport Cornwall. The UKSA announced back in November 2019 that it would award £7.35 million ($9.5 million) in grant funding to Virgin Orbit U.K. Limited, the U.K. branch of Sir Richard Branson’s company. This was to enable the horizontal launch of small satellites from Spaceport Cornwall at Cornwall Airport Newquay.
Spaceport Cornwall is described as the UK’s horizontal launch site at Cornwall Airport Newquay, providing “capable and safe access to space by 2021”. The plan is to fully integrate civilian airline services with space launch, and support the entire UK satellite industry by providing a sovereign launch capability with Virgin Orbit and Goonhilly Earth Station.
Image: Shetland Space Centre – The Shetland launch site at Lamba Ness on the island of Unst
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