Wales misses out on UK's first spaceport

Britain is keen to boost its space sector

"Scotland is the best place in the United Kingdom to reach in-demand satellite orbits with vertically launched rockets", the agency said in a statement.

Social media speculation suggested that plans to bring a launch site to Lamba Ness in Unst had hit a brick wall after the Sutherland bid was granted funding from the United Kingdom government.

London-based Orbex has received £5.5m to build a new rocket to launch from the site at Sutherland, which will help develop its orbital launch vehicle to deliver the small satellites into orbit. The Highlands and Islands Enterprise agency was awarded GBP 2.5 million in initial funding to develop the vertical launch site, which could be ready for operations by the early 2020s.

Britain wants to build its first spaceport for launching satellites in Scotland, with the government kick-starting the project by handing nearly 30 million pounds ($40 million) in grants to companies including Lockheed Martin (LMT.N).

"This will build on our global reputation for manufacturing small satellites and help the whole country capitalize on the huge potential of the commercial space age", said United Kingdom business secretary Greg Clark.

It will invest another 2 million pounds in three horizontal launch sites, saying it saw a potential benefit to the British economy of some 3.8 billion pounds over the next decade from the new space sites. This will "help the whole country capitalize on the huge potential of the commercial space age".

Artist's impression of vertical launch from United Kingdom spaceport.

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Agency chief executive Graham Turnock said the spaceport grant would "help kick-start an exciting new era for the United Kingdom space industry".

He said:"If the costs of operating in the United Kingdom become higher, then our ability to attract new investment will be diminished".

"With our collective experience, we have developed a low mass, low carbon, high performance 21st century orbital launch vehicle, designed specifically to support the needs of the rapidly growing smallsat industry", he said. When a big investment decision comes along we are not in such a good place.

"We are committed to supporting a commercial market for access to space in the U.K., and we will continue to engage with any company who seeks to operate here", Graham Turnock, chief executive of the U.K. Space Agency, said in a statement. However, this could have an upside for many other United Kingdom industries. "By looking to the stars, we bring innovation, employment and business growth to the United Kingdom economy".

One giant leap for the UK?

"It is a dynamic, fast-growing sector which employs some of the country's top talent, as well as contributing to economic growth and other important national needs, such as Earth observation and satellite communications".

"So this would put the United Kingdom in an even stronger position as a leading commercial space nation".

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