The UK is on track to becoming the first country in Europe to offer commercial launch services to small satellite manufacturers, from a range of spaceports offering both horizontal and vertical rocket launch capabilities.
Funding from the agency’s new Launch UK Technology Investment Programme will support teams from industry and universities to develop technology, products and services that will enhance the UK spaceflight supply chain, strengthen international competitiveness and catalyse further investment.
One project will recycle materials, including natural cork, to create thermal projection solutions for launcher propulsion systems and launch vehicles with a lower environmental impact. Another will develop launcher components out of lighter and more cost-effective metal composites, reducing the risk of creating space debris. Two further projects will follow next year.
Launch services are worth a potential £3.8bn to the UK economy over the next decade according to the UK Space Agency, which is already delivering a programme of spaceflight projects including Virgin Orbit’s first launch from Spaceport Cornwall. It will carry nine satellites into orbit early next year.
“While we look forward to marking a major milestone in UK launch capabilities with the upcoming launch from Spaceport Cornwall, projects such as these ensure we have growing pipeline of new technologies ready for lift-off to support our long-term ambitions,” said Ian Annett, deputy CEO at the UK Space Agency.
Work is also underway on construction of spaceports in Sutherland and Shetland, which will host vertical rocket launches from national and international launch providers. Further spaceports are in development at other locations in Scotland and Wales, with potential to host a range of new launch technology innovations.
Companies to receive funding for their projects are Space Prime, UKLSL, Rocket Engineering, European Astrotech, SmallSpark Space Systems, Lúnasa, Magdrive, Shetland Space Centre, HyImpulse, Gravitilab Aerospace Service Ltd, AltaRange Ltd, Discover Space, and TISICS Metal Composites.