The UK government has announced which company will get the majority of the £33.5 million in funding to take this nation to space.
It’s not SpaceX (sorry Musk).
It’s not Virgin Galactic (sorry Branson).
And it’s not even English…
And don’t forget MOOG
The American aerospace company will work with partners Moog and Rocket Labs. Two more yank corporates.
Altogether, they’ll get £23.5 million to make cutting-edge satellite technology for the UK’s space dream.
“375” jobs will be created, according to Patrick Wood, Lockheed Martin’s international business development director.
Doesn’t sound like a lot, does it?
BUT. They’re not the only firms to get a chunk of the government’s cash.
Funding runners-up include Orbex, a UK-based spaceflight company.
They’ll put the money towards a small launch vehicle called Prime… Which will place “smallsats into polar and sun-synchronous orbits” says SpaceNews.
The British government wants these firms to help it capture 10% of the predicted £400bn global commercial space market by 2030.
According to an article in the FT, “horizontal and vertical launch services could be worth £3.8bn to the British economy over the next decade”.
Indeed, the global market for small satellite launches is expected to be worth some $25bn over 20 years.
So… The exciting question…
Where will the government launch its satellites from?
Kilts, ginger hair and a land of scientists
I’m talking, of course, about Scotland.
The A’Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland, to be specific.
Don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of it either.
It’s a county in the highlands, and a pretty dramatic one according to Wikipedia:
“Sutherland has some of the most dramatic scenery in the whole of Europe, especially on its western fringe where the mountains meet the sea. These include high sea cliffs, and very old mountains composed of Precambrian and Cambrian rocks”.
Yes, that may have been written by someone on the Scottish Tourist Board. But it sounds like my kind of rugged environment none-the-less.
The U.K. Space Agency has also announced it is providing more than $3 million to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to begin its development.
Scotland is a fitting location for the UK’s first spaceport. They’ve produced so many incredible scientists and engineers… Surely this new industry base will draw many great minds to its work.
Indeed Scottish companies like AAC Clyde Space have pioneered the development of small satellites. They produce around 80 of them a year.
Going into space on the cheap
Here’s how the BBC puts it: “The use of off-the-shelf, low-cost, miniaturised consumer electronics is revolutionising satellites”.
AKA: we can put a hell of a lot of computing power inside a very small box.
We’re talking weather monitoring, communications relays, taking pictures of stuff on Earth.
Small satellites can do this and tend to operate in “polar-type orbits”. Simply put: they pass over the Arctic and the Antarctic as they circle the Earth.
That means our little peninsula in Scotland is perfect!
Rockets would fly north, through the gap between Iceland and the Faroe Islands, and Svalbard. If there were launch failures, nothing would fall on populated land.
When the UK starts launching these tiny satellites, we can offer the full shebang: design, build and launch.
And as a little bonus…
It’s not just Scotland getting in on the action…
Cornwall could be the sight of our SECOND spaceport.
Virgin Orbit (Branson’s back in the game!) signed a partnership agreement with Cornwall’s council to operate out of Newquay airport.
Starting in 2021, Branson’s converted aeroplanes would fly off the runway… Climb to altitude somewhere out over the ocean… And then release a rocket that can put a satellite into orbit.
There you have it. The UK gearing up to capture the growing space industry.
The best action is, of course, happening in the U.S. Here’s looking at you Musk. And Bezos.
And lets not forget China…
But I’ll explore that in a future update.