At the Farnborough International Airshow, the UK government has announced plans to develop new vertical and horizontal spaceports across the country.
The government has created a new £2m (~€2.27m) development fund for the new vertical and horizontal spaceports, and estimates that launch demand could be worth a potential £3.8bn to the UK economy over the next ten years, as part of a major expansion of Britain’s aerospace capabilities.
The first vertical launch site will be established in Sutherland, on the northern coast of Scotland, and will receive £2.5m in funding to combine proven rocket technologies with innovative solutions, with the aim of making the UK a world leader in cutting-edge aerospace and spaceflight capabilities. In addition, horizontal launch sites are planned in Cornwall, Snowdonia, and at Glasgow Prestwick airport.
What are the innovations that will power the new spaceports?
Lockheed Martin will establish vertical launch operations at the new spaceport in Sutherland, and will also develop new technologies and innovations in Reading for the deployment of six small satellites into orbit, benefiting from two grants from the UK Space Agency worth some £23.5m.
In addition, £5.5m has been provided to Orbex, which will design a new rocket to launch from Sutherland and deliver small satellites into the Earth’s orbit. This rocket will use bio-propane, a renewable fuel which cuts carbon emissions by 90% compared to traditional fuels, and will also capitalise on British manufacturing and supply chains.
How will this support the UK’s ambitions?
The UK aims to bolster its aerospace capabilities with the new vertical and horizontal spaceports, in recognition of the impact that Brexit might have on both the country’s participation in the European Space Agency, and companies such as Airbus, which has threatened to withdraw its operations from Britain in the event of a bad Brexit deal.
Business Secretary Greg Clark stated that the plan would take advantage of the UK’s global reputation for manufacturing small satellites, saying: “As a nation of innovators and entrepreneurs, we want Britain to be the first place in mainland Europe to launch satellites… 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.”