Can the UK Be Included as a Space-Faring Country?
The countries that can call themselves space-faring fairly dominate the world of space by making advancements every day. The names that can be counted in the list and referred to as space-faring include the USA, Russia, Japan, China, and Canada. Sadly, despite making advancements in spatial technology, the United Kingdom cannot be named on the list yet, and Orbex Space, a startup, is making the title seem even farther.
While the European Space Agency is overwhelmed with the contribution of 22 states, the UK is one of the most prominent amongst them. It specializes in manufacturing rockets and small satellites and boasts of a commendable track record. It gained its name way back in 1962, five years after the launch of the first human-made satellite launch in history with Ariel-1. However, due to the absence of a domestic launching ground, the UK collaborated with the US to launch the satellite from Florida, thereby declaring itself space-faring for fast advancements.
The Missing Piece in the UK Space Industry
The country has been active in making satellites ever since but could not launch a single rocket in the last 50 years due to the absence of domestic spaceports. Nevertheless, it has been bucking up since 2010 and is currently leading the communications systems of NASA’s Lunar Gateway. Not only does the involvement of the UK Space Agency in such a project proves its potential and capability, but a report published in 2018 on it proves the same as well. Based on the report, the UK’s space industry is one of the world’s leaders with a GDP of £300 billion and a worth of £14.8 billion.
However, considering the lack of internal launching capabilities, the UK Space Agency approved the making of vertical and horizontal launch sites across the country. While the horizontal spaceport location was decided to be Newquay, Cornwall, Scotland became the centre for vertical launch sites, namely Space Hub Sutherland and Shetland Space Centre. The responsibility for developing the Space Hub Sutherland was handed over to a rocket factory startup and the renowned Lockheed Martin Corporation in 2018 with deals worth £17.4 billion. However, even after two years, there is no sight of the launching spaceport.
Reasons Behind The Delay
An assumption making round as a reason behind the delay states the companies’ lack of interest in the UK. But in reality, the rocket company complained of not finding acceptance in Scotland due to Brexit making it difficult for them to work. On the other hand, the Lockheed Martin Corporation withdrew itself from the project, stating a conflict of interests.
Conclusionary Report on The Scotland Spaceports
The launch startup recently informed the media that they have successfully found and settled on an alternate location as a solution. While Space Hub Sutherland’s future looks hopeful, Shetland Space Centre developed by the Skyrora has already tested rockets and is creating a new history. And although it fuels the possibility of the UK becoming space-faring soon, it would be interesting to see the impact of the delays and Covid on UKSA with the 2020 report.
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