Scotland’s Space Industry

3rd Dec 2020

Over the years, Scotland’s space sector has created an extensive infrastructure for space projects implementation. It deals with everything from the design, development, and testing stages to launch services and spacecraft maintenance. Today, Scotland produces more satellites than any other European country. More than a dozen space companies have headquarters in Scotland, and soon, the first spaceports in Europe will be built here. 

Scotland: the European Space Leader

Scottish space companies cover a full cycle of small satellite services. They research and develop innovative technologies, provide manufacturing facilities, and maintain launch sites. Currently, the available sites are currently only located in places outside of the country, but soon enough, Scotland will have its own launchpads. 

Scotland’s geographic location is ideal for solar-synchronous and polar orbit launches, as a shorter trajectory reduces risks and flight times. The first Scottish spaceport should be commissioned in 2022. Presumably, it will be the Space Hub in Sutherland, even though more sites are planned in Shetland, Uist, and Prestwick. Once the spaceports are fully operational, Scotland will be able to fully service the entire small satellite supply chain, from development to launch and maintenance.

The British government actively supports spaceport construction. Scottish company Orbex and an American giant Lockheed Martin have already received £29 million for launchpad development. Orbex works with Space Hub Sutherland; Lockheed Martin — with Shetland Space Centre.

Scottish Space Ecosystem Members 

Local projects are involved in various space industry niches. Some are working on cutting-edge technologies so unique they have no competitors.

These Scottish space companies include:

  1. Spire – satellites and data analysis;
  2. Ecometrica – climate change monitoring;
  3. Orbex – orbital launch services, low-carbon carriers powered by renewable fuels;
  4. Skyrora – a series of suborbital and orbital launch vehicles;
  5. Clyde Space – nanosatellites and mission support services;
  6.  Astrosat – space services and management;
  7. Alba Orbital – satellites development and manufacture;
  8. STAR Dundee – aerospace engineering;
  9. Bird.i — satellite imagery;
  10. R3 IoT — remote Internet of Things (IoT) services using satellites.

These are just a few of the most well known companies working on large-scale projects. Many smaller companies, as well as several research centres, operate in Scotland’s space ecosystem.

Space facilities are scattered throughout Scotland including research centres and offices, production facilities and potential launch sites.

Key facilities are located in:

  • Ayrshire and Argyll (launch sites);
  • Dundee (satellite ground stations and research centres);
  • Edinburgh (technology testing & vehicle production);
  • Glasgow (research and satellite manufacture);
  • Highlands and Islands (future launch sites projects).

Scotland also works on the James Webb Space Telescope. It will be located a million miles away from Earth and should help scientists study the planets and galaxies in the universe. The UK Space Agency is developing this project in collaboration with NASA, the European and Canadian space agencies.

Geographical features, a large number of companies in the industry and promising projects — all of these make Scotland an important player in the development of the space industry. Furthermore, once the first spaceport is commissioned, Scotland’s space potential will only strengthen.

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