Prestwick Spaceport has secured a deal with Astraius, a commercially operated horizontal ‘air launch’ company in a landmark deal that will boost Scotland’s space industry ambitions and create an important strategic asset for the UK.

The Spaceport, represented by Glasgow Prestwick Airport and South Ayrshire Council, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Astraius, the leading UK based, commercially operated horizontal ‘air launch’ company. The organisations will collaborate closely alongside other key project partners, including Scottish and UK governments, to prepare for the orbital launch of small satellites from 2023.

The agreement brings together proven horizontal launch technology with a spaceport development in response to a growing demand from satellite customers around the globe. Both organisations have, until now, been focused on technology and infrastructure developments. The announcement marks the beginning of an ongoing period of stakeholder engagement, with a strong focus on the local community.

The design, infrastructure and launch capabilities at Prestwick Spaceport will also represent an important strategic asset for the UK. Prestwick has strong transport links, a favourable climate for regular launches and a strong heritage of innovation and engineering expertise. The spaceport will form a key part of a growing ecosystem of companies and talent which will act as a catalyst to stimulate economic activity around space, boosted by multi-million pound Ayrshire Growth Deal funding.

“Sign of great confidence in long-term vision”

The MOU was welcomed by UK and Scottish Government representatives. Ian Annett, UK Space Agency Deputy CEO said: “This partnership declaration is a sign of great confidence in the long-term vision for Prestwick, which will undoubtedly play a central role in Scotland’s contribution to the UK Space Sector.

“Harnessing the opportunities around commercial spaceflight will feed into our National Space Strategy and the Government’s agenda to level up the UK and Global Britain – creating high skilled jobs and local opportunities around UK spaceports.”

Mick O’Connor, Programme Director at Prestwick Spaceport, added: “Our launch partner announcement is the latest in a series of positive developments for the spaceport. With significant funding secured and state of the art aerospace capability on our doorstep, Prestwick is on the path to ensuring orbital launch from Europe becomes a reality.”

Commercial Director at Glasgow Prestwick Airport, Zoe Kilpatrick, added “Glasgow Prestwick Airport is perfectly positioned to become a leading provider of space launch services after being at the forefront of aviation and aerospace for almost 100 years.”

“Revolution in space exploration”

Astraius is set to provide an already proven launch solution with the necessary technology and expertise to carry out satellite launch operations, including the ability to perform multiple same day launches when required. The company, which already has agreements in place with target customers, has a presence in both the UK and US and is expected to benefit from the 2020 US-UK Technology Safeguards Agreement treaty, a legally binding agreement between the governments of the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

Astraius Chairman, Sir George Zambellas, explained: “A revolution in space exploration and technology is underway. Satellites are transforming communication, knowledge sharing and helping to monitor the environment, whilst powering the global economy. Astraius exists to provide a dependable, affordable and agile means of launching the world’s next generation of small satellites. In joining with Prestwick Spaceport, we now have the partner that will allow us to make this vision a reality.”

Astraius CEO, Kevin Seymour, said: “This landmark agreement is both strategically and commercially significant. In partnering with Prestwick, we will be able to deliver on our promise to the many satellite customers looking for launch certainty. This is an important milestone for both Astraius and Prestwick Spaceport and will add to the development of a vibrant space sector for Scotland and the UK.”

South Ayrshire Council is a key partner in the development of Prestwick Spaceport, having secured £80m of investment for the existing Prestwick Aerospace hub – Scotland’s largest – as part of the wider £250m Ayrshire Growth Deal funding. The £80 million funding will be invested in infrastructure and is expected to create up to 4,000 new high-quality jobs.

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