United Kingdom selects Scottish spaceport site

Lamba Ness in Unst where Shetland Space Centre proposes to build a commercial satellite launch base

The Newquay site, known as Spaceport Cornwall, has already recruited a satellite launch provider: Virgin Orbit, a California-based company that's part of British billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Group.

The UK Space Agency said the move could pave the way for spaceflights from the site between Tongue and Durness.

Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, which is backing the project, will also be given £23.5 million from the space agency to "establish vertical launch operations at Sutherland using proven technology and to develop an innovative new system in Reading for deploying small satellites".

Almost a fifth of the UK Space industry is based in Scotland and Glasgow builds more satellites than any other city in Europe.

Rockets and satellites will be vertically launched from the spaceport, which has received £2.5 million (approximately $3.31 million) in funding from the UK Space Agency.

Another £2 million (about $2.65 million) will be invested in horizontal launch sites across the UK.

Sutherland was chosen as it's the best location in the United Kingdom to reach satellite orbits, which are both highly sought-after and highly valued.

'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'.

"The decision to support the U.K.'s first spaceport in Sutherland is tremendous news for our region and for Scotland as a whole", said Charlotte Wright, chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the recipient of the spaceport funding.

"The worldwide space sector is growing and we want to ensure the region is ready to reap the economic benefits that will be generated from this fantastic opportunity", she added.

A report last December said Scotland's space industry is now worth more to the economy than the defence sector.

The government is planning a spaceport in Sutherland in the Highlands, 30 miles from John o'Groats, and one at Newquay, a similar distance from Land's End in Cornwall. The opportunities are considerable, launching a new age for British industry.

"The Cornwall partnership allows us to grasp important market share, gain instant global launch market credibility and, with the technology already being tested in the USA, further lower our risk", said Patrick McCall, chairman of the board of Virgin Orbit, said in the Cornwall statement.

The UK Space Agency is a UK Government body.

The government said satellites could be launched from Sutherland as soon as the early 2020s and hundreds of jobs could be created. The U.S. -based company has been a prominent member of the consortium supporting Sutherland's bid.

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