Previously DIGIT reported that several sites in Scotland were real contenders to become host to the UK’s first Spaceport. Among the potential sites was Prestwick Airport, which is owned by the Scottish Government. If selected, the new spaceport would be under public ownership and control. Prestwick has emerged as a site with serious potential for selection. Currently, the House of Lords is considering amendments to the Space Industry Bill which will put in place the legislative framework for licensed spaceports and commercial space activity in the UK. The airport had announced its intention to apply for a spaceport licence as soon as the Space Industry Bill is enacted.
SNP MP Carol Monaghan said: “It has quite a few advantages, it’s easy to get there, it has a clear run out to sea. It already has a number of companies springing up around it which already have Scottish Government funding and investment in them. There’s a space cluster already developing around Prestwick. We also have a satellite cluster developing in Glasgow so it would make great sense if we can start launching Glasgow-built satellites 30 miles away in our Prestwick spaceport.”
“That would be fantastic and allow a very strong cluster in the Central Belt of Scotland which would be brilliant. The Scottish Government could be the people that are running it. It could be nationally owned. There’s no reason why that couldn’t be the case.”
Partnership with Houston Spaceport
Another factor pushing Prestwick to the forefront of the spaceport race is the partnership it signed in 2016 with Houston Spaceport. The deal will provide Prestwick with access to Houston’s existing agreements with NASA, allowing them to use Nasa technology, resources and research in a commercial environment.
Richard Jenner, Glasgow Prestwick Airport Spaceport Director, said: “Glasgow Prestwick developing a spaceport in Scotland will bring huge economic benefits – up to £320 million towards our economy. This is before taking account of the further added value that the spaceport, our partners in the developing aerospace campus around us and wider science in technology industries in Scotland can gain from having access to NASA research and resources.”
More recently a spokesperson for Prestwick Airport told the Sunday Herald: “Glasgow Prestwick Airport aims to become the first commercial spaceport in the UK and Europe. This means we will be able to offer horizontal launches of orbital and sub-orbital missions for satellite launches, micro-gravity experiments and passenger spaceflight experiences.”
Scottish Space Industry
The Space industry, which is worth more than £130 million to the Scottish economy, enjoys a high proportion of space-related jobs, 20% of jobs in the UK’s space industry are in Scotland, double the proportion of the UK’s population. In 2017 Scotland’s space sector generated £2.5 billion in turnover and has grown by a staggering 71% since 2010.
Recently, two of Scotland’s leading space technology companies celebrated the successful launch of an advanced new satellite, into Low Earth Orbit. Spire, the Glasgow-based space technology company has just won a £4 million contract from the UK Space Agency to showcase and validate new space-based technologies. While there are other sites competing for the highly coveted position of being Scotland’s first spaceport, it is clear that if indeed a Scottish site is selected it will bring a multitude of benefits to Scotland’s expanding space industry.