Scotland chosen as site for first British space port

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The A'Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland, Scotland, was chosen to be the most suitable place for the new spaceport, from which to launch rockets vertically to put satellites in orbit. A vertical launch involves a rocket blasting off from a launchpad, with the UK Space Agency saying that northern Scotland is the best place in the UK to reach popular satellite orbits using vertically launched rockets.

The site on the A'Mhoine peninsula, between Tongue and Durness, is believed to be the best place in the United Kingdom for vertical rocket launches.

HIE will work with a group that includes U.S. aerospace company Lockheed Martin, BBC notes, with a goal of having launches in the early 2020s.

The UK government also announced a new GBP 2 million development fund to look at starting horizontal launch services, which target the future space flight market, at sites such as Newquay, Glasgow Prestwick and Snowdonia.

The commercial space sector is estimated to be worth a potential £3.8 billion to the United Kingdom economy over the next decade and will support Britain's modern Industrial Strategy by creating high-skilled jobs and boosting local economies.

Artist's impression of an Orbex rocket launch | Credit Orbex
Artist's impression of an Orbex rocket launch | Credit Orbex

The government said the investments were the first steps to developing a national space programme.

The site will support rocket takeoffs, while three other sites will support space missions launched from aircraft.

Welcoming the announcement Scottish Secretary David Mundell added: The UK Government is driving the commercial space age and Scotland is leading the way.

"The worldwide space sector is on the rise, and we want to make sure that our region will be able to derive economic benefits thanks to this wonderful opportunity", said Charlotte Wright, Director General of the HIE.

According to the agency's chief executive Graham Turnock, the satellite industry faces "significant barriers to growth".

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Sutherland is the first vertical launch location to be awarded grant money, ahead of other sites at Unst, Shetland, and North Uist in the Western Isles.

"The global space sector is set to grow very significantly in the coming years, and we want to ensure that our businesses are ready to reap the economic benefits that will be generated", she said.

The British government had for years been studying designating one or more sites as spaceports.

"Rockets are effectively controlled explosions, very well controlled, " he said.

"So there's a natural exclusion zone of around 4km from the site where the pad will be located, and you don't want to have any people or anything in the area".

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"But I think the hard work starts now to move forward and make sure that we actually realise this".

"Not only that, but it will become a considerable tourist attraction for many years to come".

"Our recent Space Industry Act has unlocked the potential for hundreds of new jobs and billions of revenue for British business across the country", confirms Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling.

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