Scotland is set to become a pioneer in sustainable commercial space flight activity in Europe, thanks to a £6.7m funding boost from the UK Space Agency. The funding will support three projects that aim to reduce the environmental impact of space launches and satellite operations, as well as creating new jobs and opportunities in the Scottish space sector.
Green rocket fuel and reusable launchers
One of the projects that will benefit from the funding is Orbex, a company that is developing a small launch vehicle called Prime, which will use bio-propane as a green alternative to conventional rocket fuel. Bio-propane is a by-product of biodiesel production and has a lower carbon footprint than fossil fuels. Orbex will receive £5.5m from the UK Space Agency to support the development and testing of Prime, which will launch from Space Hub Sutherland, a new launch site in northern Scotland.
Another project that will receive funding is Skyrora, a company that is developing a reusable rocket called Skyrora XL, which will launch from a mobile platform and return to Earth using a parachute system. Skyrora will use £1m from the UK Space Agency to test the reusability of its rocket components and demonstrate its capability to launch multiple satellites in a single mission.
Sustainable satellite operations
The third project that will receive funding is Astroscale, a company that is developing a service to remove space debris from orbit. Space debris, such as defunct satellites and rocket parts, poses a threat to the safety and sustainability of space activities, as it can collide with operational satellites and cause damage or disruption. Astroscale will use £200,000 from the UK Space Agency to establish a ground station in Scotland that will communicate with its debris removal spacecraft, called ELSA-d, which was launched in March 2021.
Boosting the Scottish space sector
The UK Space Agency’s funding is part of its Space for Growth programme, which aims to support the growth and innovation of the UK space sector, as well as addressing global challenges such as climate change and security. The funding will also create new jobs and opportunities in the Scottish space sector, which already employs over 7,500 people and accounts for 18% of the UK space industry’s income.
Science Minister George Freeman said: “The UK is a world leader in the space sector and we are committed to supporting its continued growth and innovation. These projects will not only boost the Scottish space sector, but also help to make space more sustainable and environmentally friendly for future generations.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “Scotland is at the forefront of the UK’s thriving space sector and this funding will help to cement its position as a leader in sustainable space flight. This is a great example of how the UK government is investing in Scotland’s potential and creating new jobs and opportunities in cutting-edge industries.”