The UK Is Rejoining the Space Race

3 days ago 22

Virgin Orbit’s flight is expected to be just the start of the country’s launch prowess. Two more spaceports are currently under development, one at the northernmost tip of mainland UK in Sutherland, Scotland, and another in the Shetland Islands, even further north, off the Scottish coast. Both will be used for more classic vertical rocket launches as soon as next year. Sutherland is set to be the home of Orbex, a UK launch company based out of Forres near the Scottish city of Inverness, while Shetland will see flights from the US firm ABL Space Systems.

Another UK launch company, Edinburgh-based Skyrora, also hopes to reach orbit next year using a mobile launch platform that can be packed into a shipping container and which, it says, could be used from a number of locations. In the coming weeks, the company is expected to conduct a test “hop” into space with a small rocket, which will briefly reach a cosmic altitude of 102 kilometers, via a launch from Iceland.

If these companies are successful, there are riches to be had. With no operational launch site in Europe (sites are being considered in Germany, Portugal, and elsewhere), European space companies, rather than shipping their satellites to the US or other locations, could take a relatively shorter jaunt to the UK. “We’re looking at a fantastic opportunity to be one of the only launching states which can service the European market,” says Shaw. ...

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