UK Spaceport Funding

9th May 2020
Sutherland spaceport

Commissioning of the first UK Spaceport is scheduled for the early 2020s. Active coordination of these projects and fundraising is well underway.

Why does the UK need its own spaceport? 

The UK is actively designing spaceport projects across its entire country. According to expert estimates, in the next ten years, the space launch industry could bring significant revenue to the country.

The first UK spaceport should be commissioned in early 2021. It is not yet clear which facility it is going to be because the discussions are not over yet. Still, most agree that either Sutherland or Cornwall will become the first launch site in Scotland.

Sutherland is the best-suited for spaceport construction since its geography is perfect for launching spacecraft into low-polar and solar-synchronous orbits. Besides, Scotland has enough sparsely populated areas, which means that future rocket launches will not affect residents’ peace. 

Investors and their contribution

UK spaceport projects have support from the UK government, as well as venture capital funds, private investors, and even local councils. For example, in 2019, Cornwall Council allocated £9.8 million to Cornwall Spaceport. Virgin Orbit, owned by the British billionaire businessman Richard Branson, invested another £2.5 million. 

Still, the UK Space Agency grants most funds. In 2019, the UK budget allocated £50 million into the UK spaceport program. During the year, various facilities received different funding. In particular:

  • Cornwall spaceport – £7.35 million;
  • Sutherland spaceport –£2.5 million;
  • Campbeltown, Argyll & Bute – £488 thousand.

In addition, the UK Space Agency invests in private companies that plan to launch vehicles from local spaceports. That is how American military supplier, Lockheed Martin received a grant of £ 23.5 million for implementing vertical launch infrastructure in Sutherland. This grant also finances the development of an innovative system for launching small satellites and forming them into constellation networks. A private British company Orbex received £5.5 million in funding under the same initiative. Orbex plans to launch its new ultra-ecological Prime rocket from the UK spaceport.

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