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Space

The Highlands and Islands is fast becoming a hub of space sector activity in Scotland and looks set to continue to play a vital role in the years to come.

Orbex space shuttle display with simulated purple sky behind

The importance of the space sector for our region

Scotland’s growing space industry has the potential to help put the UK at the forefront of the worldwide launch market for small commercial satellites over the next few years. 

Several locations in our region are also ideally suited as sites for vertical launch. Developments are already planned at Melness in Sutherland, Unst in Shetland and North Uist in the Western Isles. At the same time, horizontal launches are proposed for Machrihanish in Argyll, and Prestwick in Ayrshire. 

Launch capacity in turn supports opportunities for manufacturers of satellites and launch vehicles, as well as the wider supply chain.

As a nation we already produce more small satellites than any other country in Europe and are home to two companies that design and manufacture launch vehicles Orbex in Forres and Skyrora in Edinburgh. 

As satellites and launch vehicles have becoming smaller and less expensive to produce over the last 10 years the number of launch opportunities has multiplied. In 2020, the number of operational satellites in Earth orbit was just under 3,000 (2,787) – almost three times the total in 2009 (986). 

Much of the demand has been driven by the vast number of products and applications now in daily use – from smartphones and health monitors to GPS devices – that rely on satellite data and technology.

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Our region is ideally placed to host launch services at a number of locations that offer good access to orbit. Launch capacity supports opportunities for manufacturers of satellites and launch vehicles, as well as the wider supply chain.
Martin Johnson, Director of strategy and regional economy, HIE

Rocket simulation taking off at space hub Sutherland

Economic potential of the Scottish space industry

Scotland’s growing space industry has the potential to help put the UK at the forefront of the worldwide launch market for small commercial satellites over the next few years

A detailed market analysis of the UK space launch opportunity was commissioned by HIE and carried out by RSM UK and SpaceTec Partners, an independent management consulting firm specialising in the international space sector.

Published on 22 March 2021, the study concludes that the UK is well-positioned to access a growing global market that will send almost 4,000 small satellites (3,814) into low Earth orbit through 970 launches between 2020 and 2031.

Download the study

Scotland has a great opportunity to realise its potential to become Europe’s leading commercial space nation and capture a slice of the £4bn global market by 2030.
Ivan McKee, minister for trade, investment and innovation, Scottish Government

Space Hub Sutherland

In July 2018, the UK Space Agency (UKSA) announced that it was backing our ambitious proposals to develop a vertical launch site at The Moine, Sutherland. We are focused on ensuring that the project is developed in ways that respect the natural environment, and with safety as our top priority. As well as delivering positive economic impacts including jobs, training and supply chain opportunities, it will be vital that Space Hub Sutherland generates community benefits.

Find out more about Space Hub Sutherland
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Orbex

Founded in 2015, Orbex is an orbital launch services company, serving the needs of the small satellite industry. Last year, Orbex opened a new rocket design and manufacturing facility in Forres. Our loan of up to £675,000, and grant of up to £825,000, is part of a broad package of support and advice provided by HIE, which helped Orbex locate in Forres.

We've worked closely with Orbex since our Board decided to support the development of Space Hub Sutherland. The satellite launch facility has been designed to meet the needs of the Orbex Prime and similar small, environmentally sustainable launch vehicles.

Find out more about Orbex

Space Control Computer 1000X666

Shetland Space Centre

SSC plans to build and operate a satellite launch site and a ground station in Unst, Shetland, the UK’s most northerly island. It follows the identification in a major report for the UK Space Agency of Saxa Vord in Unst as the best location in the country for such a facility.

Find out more about the Shetland space centre

Spaceport One

Spaceport One is a proposal to build a commercial vertical rocket launching site at Scolpaig in North Uist.

Uksa

The UK Space Agency

The UK Space Agency (UKSA) are responsible for all strategic decisions on the UK civil space programme, providing a voice for UK space ambitions.

In July 2018, UKSA announced that it was backing our ambitious proposals to develop a vertical launch site at The Moine, Sutherland.

Find out more about UKSA

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