Space Agency puts £6.7m into Scottish satellites

Government announces major funding injection for two specialist companies north of the border, in a move hoped to support local jobs and establish the UK as a space sector hub

A multimillion-pound cash injection for UK tech firms is intended to support government’s ambition for the UK to become Europe’s leading destination for small satellite launches.

As part of the UK Space Agency’s contributions to the European Space Agency (ESA) Boost! Programme, a funding pot of £6.7m has been awarded to two specialist companies to support each to develop space technology sustainably.  The ESA scheme works to help companies develop and commercialise space transportation services.

Space minister Andrew Griffith 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.”

Among the firms to secure a share of the funding were two Scottish outfits – HyImpulse UK and Orbex – satellite launch specialists based, respectively, at SaxaVord and Sutherland spaceports .

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. 

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The funding boost will also allow the Shetland-based company to establish to work with specialist firms manufacture their carbon fibre liquid oxygen tanks.

Orbex, meanwhile, will receive a £3.3m share to install infrastructure to manufacture clean propane fuel from renewable feedstocks such as plant waste, amongst other initiatives.

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,” said UK government minister for Scotland John Lamont.

This story originally appeared on PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood

Sofia Villegas

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