Scotland & Space: Scotland can enter the top 5 largest European active spaceports

5th Apr 2020
UK Spaceports

Today 36 spaceports operate across the world, and five of them are mobile. Still, not a single spaceport is located in Western Europe. Scotland can change this by opening the first European spaceport on its territory.

Spaceports by country 

When it comes to the number of launch sites, the US and Russia take the lead. The first country has nine spaceports, while the latter has eight. This leadership is achieved because both consist of very large territories, are in good locations, and have had a consistently strong focus on the space sector.

The remaining countries own 19 sites, located in Japan, China, India, Iran, Korea, Brazil, and, oddly enough, Israel. European countries have to do with using foreign spaceports. France owns the Kourou space center on the north coast of South America just below the equator, and Hammaguir in Algeria. Italian launch site, San Marco is located in Africa but on the Eastern coast. 

The UK does not have its own spaceport, but has previously used a launch site at Woomera in Australia, from which the first British satellite Prospero was launched as part of the Black Arrow program in 1971.

The first of Scotland’s Space Hubs

Since then, British satellites have been launched from foreign spaceports, using foreign carriers. But the situation is about to change soon. The British government decided to open its own launch sites and on its own territory. Several sites in Wales, Cornwall and Scotland are all being considered at once. Some of these spaceports could be built in Royal Air Force inactive airports, while another part — in the remote territories away from residential areas in the Scottish Highlands. 

Geographically speaking, Scotland is the most promising location. It is most suitable for launching vehicles into solar-synchronous and polar orbits. The most promising projects are Shetland Space Center on Unst and Scotland Space Hub in Sutherland. It is not yet clear which of these facilities will take the lead, as consultations and planning processes are underway. However, Shetland space center has an advantage, since it is located on the base of a tourist complex with an already developed infrastructure. Besides, a small airport, previously used for cargo flights, is located just five kilometers away from the facility. 

A potential advantage of Sutherland Space Hub is its large area. This Scotland space facility should occupy 3,000 square km and may become one of the largest spaceports in the world after Baikonur in Kazakhstan, with a total area of 6.7 thousand square kilometers.

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