The UK is one of the leading countries producing small satellites. But, even despite such a high status, its industry of orbital and suborbital launches is barely developed. This does not allow the country to currently offer a full cycle of space services.
Small Satellite Launches in the UK
In late 2019, private aerospace company Orbex Space has announced the series of satellite launches from British territory. Their Orbex Prime vehicle should launch satellites of British company Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) in 2021. The launch itself will take place from a Scotland Space launch site. This is scheduled to be built on the A’Mhoine Peninsula, in Sutherland. This northern region is a perfect site for a spaceport because it has plenty of open, elevated areas.
SSTL is a subsidiary of the University of Surrey. Currently, it belongs to a space-defense concern Airbus Defense and Space. The latter has representative offices in ten countries on the six continents. SSTL was founded in 1985 and originally dealt with designing amateur radio satellites UoSAT.
In 1998 and 2005, this company won the Queens Award for Technological Achievements, and in 2006 – the Times Higher Education magazine award for outstanding contribution to innovation and technology. Presently, SSTL is not only producing small satellites but is also developing a telecommunications spacecraft, which is likely to participate in a new NASA moon exploration program Artemis, announced by the United States last year. Starting 2024, this spacecraft will ensure telecommunication between Earth stations and those located in lunar orbit.
However, the British believe that in the next two years, they will finish constructing at least one of their Scotland Space launch sites, alongside a similar project in Wales. The sites under construction will accommodate vertical vehicle launch. Orbex Space is just one of many UK aerospace vehicle developers who intend to use new spaceports. Its ultralight Prime vehicle is perfect for launching small satellites in the British climate and Scottish Highlands. They also suggest it will run on an environmentally friendly fuel.