A multi-million boost awarded to two companies based north of the border will help to “ensure Scotland remains at the forefront of space technology”, UK Government minister for Scotland John Lamont has said.
HyImpulse UK, a launch company working with the SaxaVord Spaceport, and Orbex, an orbital launch services company working with the Sutherland spaceport, have secured a share of more than £6.7m.
Awarded as part of UK Space Agency’s contributions to the European Space Agency (ESA) Boost! Programme, the cash aims to ensure both companies develop their launch technology sustainably.
The Boost! Programme works to help companies develop and commercialise space transportation services.
The announcement came as UK minister for space Andrew Griffith shared the government’s plans for the UK to become Europe’s leading destination for small satellite launches.
He said: “Pioneering innovations like building the world’s most eco-friendly space rocket signal our commitment to being at the forefront of the next generation of space technology, while raising our standing as a leader in space sustainability.”
HyImpulse UK, which aims to reach carbon neutral operations by 2030, will receive around £3.4m for its hybrid propulsion test programme ahead of the launch of its SL Rocket from the SaxaVord Spaceport.
Located at Unst, the UK’s most northerly inhabited island, the site expects to hold its first rocket launch early next year.
The funding boost will also allow the Shetland-based company to establish the joint venture Carbon Launch Systems in partnership with Adamant Composites to manufacture their carbon fibre liquid oxygen tanks.
Orbex will receive a £3.3m share to instal infrastructure to manufacture clean propane fuel from renewable feedstocks such as plant waste, amongst other initiatives.
Located in Forness near Inverness, Orbex works with the Sutherland spaceport, which aims to become the world’s first carbon-neutral spaceport.
The site also plans to host up to 12 annual launches of Orbex’s orbital rocket Prime, which is powered by renewable biofuel.
Both organisations have revealed that their UK operations will bring a corresponding boost in employment opportunities. HyImpulse UK anticipates it will support up to 200 direct jobs in Scotland, while Highlands and Islands Enterprise anticipates that the Sutherland Spaceport will support more than 600 full-time posts across the region.
“The Scottish space sector continues to go from strength to strength with the latest figures showing an almost £40m increase in income and more than 100 new highly-skilled jobs with support from the UK Government,” Lamont added.
The funding comes at the back of Scottish Government innovation minister Richard Lochhead’s recent visit to a space summit in Los Angeles, where he outlined Scotland commitment to becoming Europe’s leading space nation by 2030.