The UK is set to get its first spaceport after government pledged almost £30M towards launching satellites off the north coast of Scotland by 2020.
Two grants worth a total of £23.5M have been awarded by the UK Space Agency to US aerospace firm Lockheed Martin to establish vertical launch operations at Sutherland in Scotland and develop an innovative new system in Reading for deploying small satellites.
It will also fund £5.5M for space launch company Orbex to build a new rocket to launch at the site in Scotland. The orbital launch vehicle, called Prime, will deliver small satellites into Earth’s orbit, using renewable fuel bio-propane.
Business secretary Greg Clark said: “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.
“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.”
The latest announcement builds on awards of £2.5M to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop the Sutherland port and a £2m development fund for horizontal spaceports such as those planned in Cornwall, Glasgow, Prestwick and Snowdonia.
Government said it is the first step towards a potential Space Sector Deal and the development of a national space programme.