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Two Scottish space firms share £8.5 million from the European Space Agency

Two Scottish space companies have secured a total of £8.5m to develop small satellite launch technologies.

Orbex and Skyrora received the funding under the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Boost! initiative and will use the money to develop their launch technologies further and bring them to market.

Orbex, an orbital launch services company based in Forres near Inverness, has been awarded more than £6m, the largest Boost! award so far, to support its Prime launch vehicle, which will launch small satellites into orbit from Space Hub Sutherland in 2023.

Prime is fuelled by bio-propane, a clean-burning, renewable fuel which reduces CO2 emissions by 90% compared to kerosene-based fuels and has been designed to leave zero debris in orbit around the Earth.

The Prime rocket is being built in Orbex’s Forres design and manufacturing site which currently employs 40 people and is looking to expand further to cater for the growing market for UK launch.

Meanwhile, Skyrora has received £2.5m to complete the development of its Skyrora XL launch vehicle, which will carry small satellites into orbit.

This will contribute to the creation of an additional 170 jobs directly within the company and will trigger onward job creation across the UK’s space, manufacturing and engineering sectors.

The vehicle is on course to be test-launched in 2022 from a UK spaceport.

Volodymyr Levykin, founder and chief executive of Skyrora, said: “This ESA contract will accelerate Skyrora’s progress on its journey to be the first to achieve the UK’s sovereign orbital launch.”

Tim Peake, the first British astronaut to visit the International Space Station and an advisor to Skyrora, said: “Independent access to space is vital for the UK to realise the full potential of its space industry and this exciting announcement for Skyrora brings us a big step closer to achieving that goal.”

The UK invested £12m into the ESA programme in 2019 – one of the largest investments from member states.

Earlier this month, UK Government published its response to the Spaceflight consultation, paving the way for the UK to install a regulatory and guidance framework to enable commercial small satellite launch from 2022.

The government’s Integrated Review into security, defence, development and foreign policy, published on 16 March, reaffirms a commitment to making the UK a leading player in space, including through the UK’s first national space strategy by June.

The ESA is not an EU organisation, so post-Brexit, the UK remains a member.

Ivan McKee, Trade and Innovation Minister said: “Our aim for Scotland is to secure a slice of the $400bn global space market by 2030, remaining committed to our climate change targets and becoming a net zero society by 2045.”

UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway added: “The UK’s space industry is thriving and we have bold ambitions to be Europe’s leading destination for small satellite launches, developing world class commercial spaceflight capability up and down the country.

“This funding for two of Scotland’s most innovative space businesses is not only a step forward for UK spaceflight, but it will also help to create highly skilled jobs and local opportunities as we build back better from the pandemic.”

source: insider.co.uk

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