Scotland to host UK’s first vertical launch rocket site

Steve Nichols

  • Posted: 17/07/2018

Scotland to host UK’s first vertical launch rocket site

Sutherland in Melness picked for first vertical launch space facility with first launch expected in early 2020s

Scotland to host UK’s first vertical launch rocket site

The UK Space Agency has selected Sutherland in Melness on the north coast of Scotland as home to the first vertical rocket launch site in the UK.

This will complement Cornwall's horizontal-launch spaceport in Newquay, announced on Monday.

The agency says Scotland is the best place in the UK to reach in-demand low-earth satellite orbits. Initial funding of £2.5 million will go to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop the launch site.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: "As a nation of innovators and entrepreneurs, we want Britain to be the first place in mainland Europe to launch satellites as part of our Industrial Strategy.

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.

"This will build on our global reputation for manufacturing small satellites and help the whole country capitalise on the huge potential of the commercial space age."

Lockheed Martin to implement vision

The UK Space Agency has selected Lockheed Martin to help implement its vision.

Patrick Wood, Lockheed Martin's UK Country Executive for Space, said: "The countdown to the first orbital rocket launch from UK soil has officially begun.

"The UK Government has stated its desire to grow the UK's space sector to 10 per cent of the global space economy by 2030. We are proud to be selected to help them achieve this goal.

"This initiative will not only spark advancements in science and innovation, it will create new opportunities for current and future UK-based suppliers to become part of the next space age."

Lockheed Martin is leading a team to execute several projects to support the UK's spaceflight programme, with a goal of providing the first vertical space launch in the early 2020s.

It is hoped the site will support a range of Lockheed Martin innovations, including a Small Launch Orbital Manoeuvring Vehicle (SL-OMV), built specifically by Moog in Reading, UK.

This platform will carry up to six 6U-sized CubeSats and the team is currently taking requests from potential customers to fill its CubeSat manifest for this first launch.

As part of the programme, Lockheed Martin teammate Orbital Micro Systems is creating a UK-built pathfinder test to validate the performance of the SL-OMV and ground system.

The pathfinder will help lay the ground work for planned satellite constellations that are designed to deliver low-latency weather observation to commercial and government customers.

UK at forefront of small satellite market

Lockheed Martin said the launch facility should be able to cope with other small satellites "up to the size of a domestic refrigerator."

"This historic pathfinder launch for the UK will also demonstrate the tremendous potential small satellites and CubeSats have across a wide range of commercial and government data collection applications," said Wood.

"We believe, as the UK Space Agency does, that this effort will help bring the UK to the forefront of the rapidly-growing, global small satellite market and support the UK's maturing space supply chain."

Lockheed Martin says it brings significant space experience to the UK's spaceflight programme, from ground systems and launch vehicles, to on-orbit missions.

Its credentials include the launch of more than 800 satellites, 11 Mars-bound spacecraft and the production of 60 per cent of today's GPS constellation.

Lockheed Martin's team includes: Moog, Orbital Micro Systems, the University of Leicester, Surrey Satellite Technology, Satellite Applications Catapult, SCISYS, Lena Space, Reaction Engines and Netherlands Space Office.

Steve Nichols

  • Posted: 17/07/2018

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