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Horizontal launch spaceports target UK space tourism and satellite launches with £2m fund

Professional Engineering

Virgin Orbit aims to launch space flights from Spaceport Cornwall at Newquay Airport (Credit: Spaceport Cornwall)
Virgin Orbit aims to launch space flights from Spaceport Cornwall at Newquay Airport (Credit: Spaceport Cornwall)

Prospective spaceports keen to capitalise on future space tourism and the UK’s thriving satellite industry can apply for a share of £2m government funding.

Newquay Airport in Cornwall, Campbeltown and Glasgow Prestwick in Scotland and Llanbedr in Snowdonia in Wales are already developing capabilities for sub-orbital flight, launch of spaceplanes and satellites.

Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands was confirmed as the site for the UK’s first ever spaceport last July. That facility will enable vertical launches, with Lockheed Martin and Orbex developing rockets.  

“The UK space sector is thriving, and horizontal spaceflight is an exciting prospect which could provide services to our world-leading small satellite industry as well as international customers and space tourists,” said science minister Chris Skidmore. “This new fund will help develop ambitious proposals to enable spaceplanes and aircraft capable of deploying satellites to operate from future UK spaceports, as part of the government’s modern industrial strategy.”

Clair Barcham, director of commercial space at the UK Space Agency, said: “The UK Space Agency is helping prospective spaceports seize the commercial opportunities offered by the increasing demands for launch. We are working closely with the industry to ensure the UK becomes a global leader in providing access to space for small satellites and sub orbital vehicles.”

Potential spaceports can apply for up to £500,000 through the UK Space Agency website. The money is intended to enable research into market opportunities offered by horizontal spaceflight technologies, in order to develop business cases for launches from the “early 2020s”.

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
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