update 2: BBC's May 11, 2022 Scottish spaceport's prototype rocket unveiled

update 1: There's some recent and potentially helpful information in NASA Spaceflight September 4, 2019 UK Spaceport at Sutherland enters public consultation phase

I've just read Jonathan Amos' article in the BBC News Lift-off for Scotland: Sutherland to host first UK spaceport and there appears to be a lot of activity discussed in this article.

From a "reserve pot" of £50m, the largest allocation is to Lockheed Martin to "bring the Electron rocket to Scotland. Currently, this vehicle flies out of New Zealand."

A British version of the rocket would have a propulsion unit and satellite dispenser developed and built at Ampthill in Bedfordshire, Harwell in Oxfordshire, and in Reading.

Also, "The UK Space Agency is giving Highlands and Islands Enterprise £2.5m towards the development of" the "A'Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland... chosen as the most suitable place from which to launch rockets vertically to put satellites in orbit."

The article goes on to say:

HIE will develop the launch complex at A'Mhoine, with Lockheed using one pad, and a second pad likely to go to Orbex. This is a new company that has been developing a 17m-tall rocket out of the public eye.

A look at Wikipedias Comparison of orbital launch systems shows that the current electron can loft 150kg to SSO (Sun synchronous LEO), and Orbex's can put 165 kg into polar orbit. In other words, the capabilities seem to be fairly close.

Is the idea here to put two competing companies with similar launch capabilities in head-to-head combat for customers? Would these two (relatively small) companies and their (relatively small) rockets really require two, separate launch pads rather than simply sharing one launch pad?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Allocating separate launch pads means there is much less need to co-ordinate their pad activities. Having multiple launch operators is the point of a spaceport, head-to-head competition may be a consequence of giving launch customers a choice, but not the intent. $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 7:15
  • $\begingroup$ Out of interest, if they're anyways building two launch pads, what interest is it to the UKSA if they're second launchpad sits untouched..? $\endgroup$
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 11:34


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