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Lockheed Martin Provides Another Important Boost to Future UK Space Sector Plans and Ambitions By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.







Confirmation this morning that hundreds of new space sector jobs will now be created in Scotland following approval by the UK Space Agency of Lockheed Martin plans to move its UK Pathfinder Launch operation to the Shetland site at Lamba Ness on the Island of Unst provides  yet another significant boost for UK government strategy of growing space sector activities to 10% of what in 2014 was considered to be a £400 billion global space enabled market economy by 2030. 

The transfer of Lockheed Martin’s UK pathfinder satellite launch operations to Shetland Space Centre not only enhances Scotland’s existing vertical launch capability but also creates facilities that will be enable targeting of a much wider potential market base through having a complementary offer across multiple spaceports.

Shetland Space Centre anticipates that by 2024, the spaceport site could support a total of 605 jobs in Scotland including 140 locally and 210 across the wider Shetland region. A further 150 jobs will also be created through wider manufacturing and support services. 

Shetland Space Centre has also applied for permission to build a vertical launch spaceport that will allow rockets carrying 30kg to 600kg satellites to be sent into orbit without passing over inhabited areas. Lockheed Martin which is at the forefront of UK operational space launch capability plans is also in discussions with a preferred partner to provide launch services for its UK Pathfinder Launch, which would take place from Shetland Space Centre.  

UK Government minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said in the formal announcement of the planned move of Lockheed Martin Pathfinder Launch operations and creation of the Shetland Space Centre this morning that:

“The UK Government is committed to cementing the UK’s position as a global leader in the space sector. The creation of the Shetland Space Centre is incredibly exciting news and a real boost for the local economy adding that “Our investment in Scottish spaceports is creating hundreds of secure and skilled jobs for people in Scotland. “The Shetland Space Centre” he said “is a huge step forward for our ambitious UK Spaceflight programme.” 

Supported by Highlands & Islands Enterprise and the UK satellite launch company Orbex, permission has also been received for a planned £17.3m vertical launch Space Hub facility in Sutherland.

Scotland is already home to some of the world’s most innovative satellite manufacturers and the ability to host complementary spaceport launch sites in Shetland and Sutherland places the UK in a very strong position to become Europe’s leading small satellite launch destination.  

The economic benefits of launch operations will be shared across the Highlands and Islands region and both Space Hub Sutherland and Shetland Space Centre have already attracted significant commercial interest in their announced plans. To that end, Orbex has already opened a rocket design and manufacturing facility in Forres, near Inverness and which, when in full operation, anticipated to bring 130 highly-skilled jobs to the region. 

The fast-growing Space sector undoubtedly has a very significant role to play in generating economic growth, creating high-skilled jobs and tackling global challenges, from climate change to the spread of infectious diseases. The ability to launch small satellites for Earth observation and communications will boost UK efforts to tackle these challenges by providing valuable tools and data that can help analyse and predict impacts and support effective decisions and mitigation strategies.

The UK’s spaceflight programme – LaunchUK – is also working with a range of additional partners in order to establish commercial vertical and horizontal small satellite launch facilities from UK spaceports including Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit.  

Just as an airport can handle a range of different airlines and aircraft, Space Hub Sutherland has been designed as a multi-user site able to cater for the needs of multiple launch providers. This ensures that the facility will be able to continue to compete for a wide range of exciting vertical launch opportunities. 

The UK Space Agency will continue to fully support Space Hub Sutherland through grant funding to Highlands and Islands Enterprise in order to develop the spaceport infrastructure and to the UK-based launch partner Orbex as it prepares for its innovative Prime rocket to launch from the site in 2022.  

CHW (London 22nd October 2020)

Howard Wheeldon FRAeS 

Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,

M: +44 7710 779785

Skype: chwheeldon



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