UK’s very first spaceport will be built in a remote area in Scotland – in A’Mhoine in Sutherland county, to be more exact.
The Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is the one who intends to build it, backed up by a £2.5m grant generously offered by the UK Space Agency. Ideally, the spaceport should be up and running by 2020.
The Sutherland spaceport plans to launch micro-satellites into desirable orbits, among other goals.
But that is not all: the government announced a £2million development fund that will go into building “horizontal launch” spaceports across the UK. One of them will be at the Newquay airport in Cornwall, who is expected to start launching satellites in the next three years. The horizontal spaceports will have runways instead of launchpads, which will accommodate space planes.
With these projects country intends to boost their suborbital flights and spaceplane plans and start a new era for the UK’s space industry – on Monday it was announced that Lockheed Martin will also be flying its Electron rocket from the future Sutherland spaceport.
Both Lockheed Martin and the HIE have consulted with the locals concerning the spaceport’s construction and operation and the reaction has been a mixed one.
On one hand, the spaceport will create job opportunities while on the other, not only the citizen’s quiet life will be disrupted but there are also concerns about the environmental risks that come with rockets being flown into orbit.
At the same time, the Dounreay nuclear research reactor in the same area has been decommissioned a while ago and along with it, the local economy has suffered. The spaceport might prove to be a solid deal that will benefit the locals in the long run.
The vertical spaceport and the future horizontal launch ones are important for the UK, who has pioneered the development of small satellites. Now, if they will be able to keep riding the wave they placed themselves on top of, the country would be able to offer everything to their customers, in a nice, all-inclusive package because they would be responsible for the product design, the building and also the launch. That is no small feat.
The time is short for the UK to snatch a good portion of the launch market, but so far they’re moving at a steady pace.