UK to gain up to a £4 billion share of the global space market by end of the decade

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Minister Lamont meets Saxa Vord Space Port Project Manager Elizabeth Johnson. Photo credit: UK Space Agency

The UK will soon become the first country to launch satellites into orbit from Europe.

The first launch will take place from Spaceport Cornwall in the south-west of England later this year. However, Saxa Vord in Scotland will shortly follow and is on track to launch its first satellites in 2023 – part of UK-wide efforts to gain up to a £4 billion share of the global space market by the end of the decade.

First launch will take place from Spaceport Cornwall in the south-west of England later this year. Photo shows the Royal Air Force assisting Virgin Orbit in transporting Launcher One over to the UK from the USA. Photo credit: MOD – Crown Copyright 2022.

Shetland is set to be at the heart of Scotland’s – and the UK’s – space industry success story, UK Government Minister for Scotland John Lamont said as he visited the Saxa Vord spaceport on Unst today.

The Minister visited the site’s first, newly completed concrete launch pad, one of three orbital launch pads that will support up to 30 vertical launches a year from the former RAF station site, employing up to 200 people in connection with each launch.

Minister Lamont said:

There is a huge opportunity for Shetland to be a world leader in terms of space technology deployment; the spaceport at Saxa Vord has unique geographical advantages that we are keen to help them exploit.

We’re working hard to become the first in Europe to provide end-to-end solutions – from design and build to lift-off – for small satellites, and the development of different launch sites is a crucial part of that.

This is a very exciting project, and the wider space industry has huge potential to create rewarding and skilled careers not just throughout Scotland but across the UK as a whole; Shetland can be at the heart of that.

Saxa Vord is one of several sites nationwide that have benefited from £40m of UK Government support – including £31.5m in Scotland – as part of its National Space Strategy and LaunchUK programme.

John Lamont was undertaking his first engagements since being appointed as UK Government Minister for Scotland, and met with members of Shetland Islands Council to discuss opportunities and challenges for the islands.

Andrea Manson, Convener, Shetland Islands Council, said:

I am delighted that the Minister has prioritised Shetland for his first ministerial visit and I was happy to welcome him to Shetland. This was a fantastic opportunity to showcase the opportunities Shetland has in space, aquaculture and new energy. It was a positive chance to engage on fixed links and Levelling Up.

The minister also visited Scottish Sea Farms’ salmon fishery at Burra and later met teams from Blueshell Mussels and Shetland Mussels, members of the Scottish Shellfish co-operative.

He added:

It has been great to explore Shetland’s vibrant and diverse economy. One of the themes that has come up repeatedly throughout this visit has been connectivity – both in terms of technological infrastructure, and of fixed links to improve access to the outer islands.

Shetland has already benefited from internet connectivity improvements with UK Government help; it was helpful to discuss options for improving physical infrastructure too and I will be discussing with colleagues what we might be able to do, across Government, in terms of moving these proposals forward to the next stage.

Soon the UK will become the first country to launch satellites into orbit from Europe. The first launch will take place from Spaceport Cornwall in the south-west of England later this year. It will be what is known as a ‘horizontal launch’.

A specially modified Boeing 747 from Virgin Orbit called Cosmic Girl, with a rocket attached under its wing, will take off from a runway. In flight, the LauncherOne rocket will launch from the wing, taking multiple small satellites into orbit.

The plane will then return to the Spaceport, able to launch more satellites in future.

Read more about UK becoming the first country to launch satellites into orbit from Europe here.

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