Sutherland on the launch pad to be Britain's first spaceport

The Forth Bridge dominates the background as the Flying Scotsman steam train travels through the Fife countryside during a tourist trip to the Scottish region and a visit to Edinburgh

'Great British Space Age' will see rocket launches in three years, says government

A traditional "vertical" rocket launch pad will be built in Sutherland, on the north coast of Scotland, to put small satellites into orbit. Initial funding of £2.5 million will go to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop the A'Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland, which could be operational... HIE will then work closely with space tech companies, like U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, to begin launching rockets.

Britain wants to build its first spaceport for launching satellites in Scotland, with the government kick-starting the project by handing nearly £30 million (Dh146.1m) in grants to companies including Lockheed Martin.

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 government estimates that commercial vertical and horizontal launches could be worth £3.8 billion to the economy over the next decade.

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

Welcoming the announcement Scottish Secretary David Mundell added: The UK Government is driving the commercial space age and Scotland is leading the way. Currently, his Virgin Orbit company is based in Long Beach, California, but Newquay authorities hope to tempt him back to Blighty in time for a 2021 launch. The remote A'Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland has been chosen as the most promising place in the United Kingdom for blasting satellites and tourists into space.

"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.

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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".

"The global 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. However, looking at new sites for vertical launches gave the government Scotland and possibly the Shetland Islands.

"The worldwide space sector is growing and we want to ensure the region is ready to reap the economic benefits that will be generated from this fantastic opportunity", she added.

Once the site is developed, HIE said it expected that 400 people could be employed and up to six launches of micro satellites could be carried out each year.

To date, US regulators have licensed 10 commercial spaceports, including Spaceport America in southern New Mexico, where Virgin Galactic plans to launch its customers-horizontally, from an aircraft-for pleasure rides into space.

Low cost access to space is important for the UK's thriving space sector, which builds more small satellites than any other country.

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