The United Kingdom has been mulling over where and whether it should build a spaceport, with serious discussions going on for the last several years. Finally, a decision has been made to build the first of a new round of spaceports in Sutherland, Scotland - a 12 hour drive or three hour flight from London. Launches are expected to start from the early 2020s.
According to the UK Space Agency, Lockheed Martin will be responsible for establishing “vertical launch operations in Sutherland, Scotland”. It will develop technologies for launches in Reading, Berkshire with two grants from UKSA totalling £23.5 million. The British firm, Orbex, is also set to receive £5.5 million to build an innovative rocket which will launch from Sutherland.
Aside from the vertical launch site in Sutherland, there are also plans to build horizontal launch sites in Cornwall, Glasgow, and Snowdonia. These sites will be used for launching space planes such as those being developed by Virgin Galactic in order to put satellites and tourists into space.
Patrick Wood, Lockheed Martin’s UK Country Executive for Space, said:
“The UK Space Agency’s strategic vision for a world-class launch market will position the nation for a very bright future in space. Lockheed Martin will apply its 50 years of experience in small satellite engineering, launch services and ground operations, as well as a network of UK-based and international teammates, to deliver new technologies, new capabilities and new economic opportunities.”
Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex, said:
“We’re delighted to have been selected after a highly competitive and detailed process. Orbex is one of the very few private spaceflight companies with credible practical experience in the development of launch vehicles and rocket engines. With the support of this grant from the UK Space Agency, we will soon be launching small satellites into orbit from British soil and helping to transform the UK into an important hub for commercial space launch operations.”
According to the BBC, Scotland is the ideal place for a spaceport because satellites will be easier to get into orbit over the Arctic and the Antarctic because of its close proximity to the prior. Rockets wouldn’t have to pass over populated areas so missions could be aborted safely if anything goes wrong.
Let us know in the comments if you support the UK in building spaceports or just think it’s all a waste of money. Either way, the move finally puts a spaceport in reach for people living in the UK who want to see a rocket launch up close.