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Glasgow Prestwick Airport secures launch partner for Prestwick Spaceport

Posted: 22 September 2021 | | No comments yet

Glasgow Prestwick Airport has secured a partnership deal with Astraius for the development of the Prestwick Spaceport, a milestone that will bolster Scotland’s space industry goals.

Glasgow Prestwick Airport secures launch partner for Prestwick Spaceport

Credit: Glasgow Prestwick Airport - Mick O’Connor, Programme Director of Prestwick Spaceport; Kevin Seymour, CEO of Astraius; Zoe Kilpatrick, Commercial Director of Glasgow Prestwick Airport; Councillor Peter Henderson, Leader of South Ayrshire Council; Sir George Zambellas, Chairman of Astraius.

Glasgow Prestwick Airport (PIK) has secured a launch partner for its spaceport development in a landmark deal that will boost Scotland’s space industry ambitions and create an important strategic asset for the UK.

The airport, together with its partner South Ayrshire Council, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Astraius, the leading UK-based, commercially-operated horizontal ‘air launch’ company.

The agreement brings together proven horizontal launch technology, which allows the release of a rocket carrying small satellites from high altitude, with a world class spaceport development, in response to a growing demand from customers. The global satellite market is booming, with operators of technology no larger than a shoebox looking to access ‘Low Earth Orbit’ (LEO) to carry out activities that include monitoring climate change, tracking deforestation and identifying illegal fishing or mining activities around the globe.

The announcement will substantially bolster Scotland’s space industry ambitions. Glasgow already manufactures more small satellites than anywhere in the world outside of California, while Edinburgh has positioned itself as the space data capital of European Union (EU), leading on the analysis of space-derived data to bring a range of benefits to a variety of business sectors, the environment and wider society.

The spaceport forms a key part of a growing ecosystem of companies and talent that will act as a catalyst to stimulate economic activity around space, boosted by multi-million-pound Ayrshire Growth Deal funding”

The design, infrastructure and launch capabilities at Prestwick Spaceport also represent an important strategic asset for the UK. Prestwick has particularly strong transport links, a more than favourable climate for regular launches and a strong heritage of innovation and engineering expertise. The spaceport forms a key part of a growing ecosystem of companies and talent that will act as a catalyst to stimulate economic activity around space, boosted by multi-million-pound Ayrshire Growth Deal funding.

The MoU was warmly welcomed by the UK Space Agency, as well as both wider UK and Scottish government representatives. Ivan McKee, Scotland’s Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, said: “The Memorandum of Understanding with Astraius as a launch partner is great news for the Prestwick Spaceport and signifies a major step towards bringing horizontal launch capability to Scotland. Our ambition is for Scotland to be EU’s leading space nation and to have a £4 billion share of the global space market by 2030, whilst developing launch capability, both vertical and horizontal, to serve small satellite producers. The announcement brings us a step closer to achieving our ambition and proves, once again, the versatility and dynamism of the Scottish space sector.” 

Zoe Kilpatrick, Commercial Director at Glasgow Prestwick Airport, commented: “Glasgow Prestwick Airport is perfectly positioned to become a leading provider of space launch services after being at the forefront of aviation and aerospace for almost 100 years. In Astraius we have identified a partner with the vision, expertise and proven technology to help fast-track our ambition to become EU’s premier launch location, offering spaceflight as part of a proposition that stretches beyond launch, bringing a wide range of space related benefits to the region.”

“This is both commercially exciting for the flagship element of Prestwick’s established aerospace hub and an important strategic step in developing launch capability for the UK. Partnering with the right service provider is critical for any launch location and Astraius is best suited to provide the required impetus and momentum to this exciting endeavour,” added Kilpatrick.

South Ayrshire Council is a key partner in the development of Prestwick Spaceport, having secured £80 million of investment for the existing Prestwick Aerospace hub, Scotland’s largest, as part of the wider £250 million Ayrshire Growth Deal funding. The £80 million funding will be invested in infrastructure and is expected to create up to 4,000 new high-quality jobs.

Bringing a wide range of skilled jobs and a vibrant supply chain to the local area, the spaceport not only offers significant economic benefits, but will create opportunities for young people to have exciting careers”

“Prestwick Spaceport will have a hugely positive impact on local communities in South Ayrshire,” said Councillor Peter Henderson, Leader of South Ayrshire Council. “Bringing a wide range of skilled jobs and a vibrant supply chain to the local area, the spaceport not only offers significant economic benefits, but will create opportunities for young people to have exciting careers. The spaceport, like all other Ayrshire Growth Deal projects – such as a new Aerospace and Space Innovation Centre at Prestwick – will be delivered on Community Wealth Building principles. Based on inclusive growth, this will ensure that local people are given the chance to develop skills so they can participate in the future economy. The signing of this MoU is not only a significant step for the development of Prestwick Spaceport, but for the future communities of South Ayrshire.”

The Ayrshire Growth Deal is a partnership being driven forward by the Scottish government, the UK government and East, North and South Ayrshire Councils. The Deal was signed in November 2020, securing £251.5 million investment to realise Ayrshire’s potential and to become a world-class business region for the aerospace and space, energy, marine, manufacturing and tourism industries. This investment is expected to unlock private investment of around £300 million and deliver around 7,000 new jobs across a wide range of sectors, transforming the local economy.

The £80 million being invested in the Aerospace and Space programme at Prestwick will position Ayrshire as one of the UK’s leading centres of aerospace and space activity, involving the four key projects of Spaceport Infrastructure, Commercial Build, Roads Infrastructure and the Aerospace and Space Innovation Centre.

Iain Stewart, UK government Minister for Scotland, commented: “This is a giant leap for Prestwick and the UK to delivering a horizontal launch spaceport and boosting our growing space industries. Through the Ayrshire Growth Deal, the UK government is investing £32 million in the aerospace and space programme, which is bringing new jobs and businesses to the area. Across Scotland we are investing more than £1.5 billion in region deals, helping communities to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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