Boris Johnson says a space rocket will be launched from Scotland within two years.
The prime minister said an RAF-run “space command” will be established – and that a satellite will have been sent into space in a UK-made rocket from a vertical launch site in Scotland by 2022.
Earlier this year planning permission was secured to build a space port at the A’Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland, but Scotland boasts a number of regions that are attractive to aerospace companies for development.
A consortium revealed plans last year to build the UK’s first vertical launch site at Scolpaig, North Uist, following months of investigations. Shetland has also been earmarked as a desirable location.
Prestwick Airport has sought interest from companies in carrying out horizontal space launches from its 2,986-metre concrete case runway.
Similarly, Cornwall is expected to have a horizontal space port operational by 2021 with Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit looking to launch satellites and Virgin Galactica reported to be considering space tourism.
In 2018, the UK Government decided that the A’Mhoine peninsula bid was the best option. Known as Space Hub Sutherland, permission for the site of the £17.5 million facility and the launch of up to 12 satellites a year was granted in August. But it is facing a legal challenge from billionaire landowners Anders and Anne Holch Povlsen, who are among more than 400 objectors worried about the impact on protected areas.
Similarly, plans for a space port at Scolpaig have come up against protests on environmental grounds.
At horizontal launch sites, rockets are fired at a gradual angle, similar to a plane’s take-off. A vertical launch pad sees rockets fired directly upwards into space.
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