Scotland has a long and prestigious heritage of engineering and manufacturing excellence. While the River Clyde is best known for its shipbuilding industry, the West of Scotland is rapidly becoming recognised as the home of another kind of vessel, ones that explore a new frontier of human exploration – space.

Glasgow designs and builds more small satellites than any other city in Europe. The space industry in Scotland is growing apace and is currently home to over 180 diverse organisations employing over 7,600 employees.

in 2016/2017 the total UK space industry income grew to £14.8 Billion[1](a growth rate of 3.3% per annum). While Scotland makes up less than 9% of the UK population it accounts for 18% of jobs in the UK space industry which contributes £130M to the Scottish economy.

Hardware specialist businesses – Leonardo, Clyde Space and Spire – are well established in developing small scale satellites, constellations and component parts; drawing on the engineering expertise of Scotland’s graduates and talent polls.

Scottish universities nurture the core strengths required for a flourishing space industry. NASA’s Valkyrie robot is one of the advanced humanoid robots in the world. Developed in partnership with researchers at the University of Edinburgh, The Valkyrie robot based at the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics is being tested in simulated and physical environments before being sent to Mars in preparation for future manned missions.

Satellites developed and launched from Scotland are being used worldwide and the data being generated by them is being harnessed to monitor forests and fields, waves and wind, climate and corrosion across the world. A burgeoning tech industry has led to the creation of innovative young businesses mining data from space, providing capabilities in telecom connectivity to shipping fleet management.

Earth observation was turned on its head earlier this year when scientists captured the first ever images of a black hole, highlighting the horizon beyond which all known physical laws collapse. Future exploration of space will no doubt lead to further images of a world currently unknown to us, leading to space exploration of environments that are currently uninhabitable by man.

Scientists in Scotland will work on the world’s first ever Gravitational Wave Space Observatory, which will study ripples in space and time, thanks to an initial £1.7 million of funding from the UK Space Agency. Scheduled to launch in the 2030s, the space observatory will allow scientists to study these mysterious waves, improving our knowledge of the beginning, evolution, and structure of the Universe. The work of the University of Glasgow’s Institute for Gravitational Research and the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) in Edinburgh, will develop the optical benches for the European Space Agency’s LISA mission (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna).

Last year the UK Space Agency (UKSA) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) confirmed a funding package of £17.3 million to establish the UK’s first spaceport in the Highlands with the aspiration to establish Scotland as Europe’s leading space-faring nation. By the early 2020s, Scottish-built vertical rocket and satellites will be launched from the site, meaning we can design, manufacture, launch, operate, downlink and utilise the data – all in Scotland.  This end-to-end capability in the small satellite value chain will be unique in Europe.

The space industry in Scotland is supported by world-class universities, innovative businesses nurtured by a collaborative and innovative ecosystem, and some of the most talented professionals in the world. The space industry will, through the utilisation of data and creative innovative technologies, change the very nature of life on Earth and there is no country better placed than Scotland to be at the forefront of this new frontier.

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[1] Size and Health of the UK Space Industry 2018, A Report to the UK Space Agency