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by Sofia Villegas
25 March 2024
UK Space Agency announces first-ever office in Scotland

Queen Elizabeth House in Edinburgh

UK Space Agency announces first-ever office in Scotland

The UK Space Agency (UKSA) is opening its first-ever office in Scotland as part of "transformational" expansion.

Scotland builds the most satellites in Europe and almost one fifth of the whole UK space workforce is based north of the border. 

The Scottish Government’s ambition is for Scotland to be Europe's space capital, with a £4bn share of the global space market by 2030. The Scottish space sector currently generates £180m in income a year.

Paul Bate, chief executive of the UKSA, said:“Scotland is a global hub for satellite manufacturing and the analysis of satellite data, and it is increasingly becoming a leading destination for a satellite launch."

The announcement comes after the SaxaVord station in Shetland was awarded the UK's first licence for vertical rocket launches, with the first take-off expected to happen later this year. 

“We have seen a significant rise in space organisations across the Scottish space ecosystem and it’s crucial we nurture their skills and expertise and connect them with the wider sector, to ensure we continue this journey," Bate added.

The new office will be located at Queen Elizabeth House in Edinburgh. It will form part of a larger expansion by the agency, with other offices opening in Cardiff and Leicester. New headquarters will also open at the Harwell Space Cluster in Oxfordshire, marking a “transformational moment” for the agency, Bate claimed. 

Aligned with the UK Government’s Levelling Up strategy, the new structure will create opportunities to build on high-growth areas, such as Earth observation and satellite broadband. It will also help the UK establish a first-mover advantage in emerging markets such as in‑orbit spacecraft servicing, active space debris removal, and the new lunar economy.

Dr Hina Khan, executive director of Space Scotland, said: “We eagerly anticipate the opportunities that this closer collaboration will bring, as we work hand in hand to leverage Scotland's strengths and expertise. By fostering greater connectivity and cooperation, we can drive innovation, create new jobs, and propel Scotland's space sector to even greater heights.”

The announcement adds to prior support from agencies to the Scottish space sector including a £30m fund for companies to operate from the SaxaVord Spaceport as well as a £2.5m fund given to the Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop Sutherland Spaceport.

The Scottish launch sector has also benefited from funding awarded using UK Space Agency contributions to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Boost! Programme. Last year, Orbex, an orbital launch services company based near Inverness, received over £3.3m to ensure its launch activities from Sutherland Spaceport are environmentally sustainable.   

Phillip Chambers, chief executive at Orbex, said: "A dedicated UK Space Agency office in Edinburgh is extremely welcome. The UK's Orbital launch capability is at a critical development point and it is vital that the UKSA is a supportive and active voice in Scotland. It is one thing to build spaceports but it is quite another to develop sustainable, cost effective launch vehicles in the UK that can compete with European manufacturers, and the support of UKSA is essential to help us achieve this."

 

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