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Scotland's great opportunity

A new industry is taking shape and Scotland has the opportunity to play a role in it.

Space travel for long the preserve of the big national agencies is opening up on a commercial basis. Various companies are developing new designs of spacecraft, and travel agents are now taking flight bookings for journeys up to the edge of space.

But these short flights will be just the beginning. They will provide the first income for the new rocketplanes, but the real long-term benefits will be on a much wider scale – and particularly for satellites.

The UK is a world leader in the satellite business, with a particular strength in small satellites. Scottish companies are already to the fore in providing components and systems for satellites, particularly small satellites, and a Scottish-built satellite is to be launched this March.

But the UK has no satellite launch facilities of its own – a striking gap for a country with such a global presence in the satellite sector. UK satellites have to be sent to other countries to piggyback on their launch systems. The UK Government has now targeted as a priority the establishment of a UK spaceport by 2018.

And this is where Scotland comes in. The RAF Lossiemouth airbase has been recognised by leading figures in UK aerospace as ideally placed for polar orbit satellite launch and for space tourism, and that confidence has been backed by the UK Government.

The fast-jet facilities at Lossiemouth are exactly what is needed for the new rocketplanes, for take-off and landing. An additional option is to use the nearby airfield of Kinloss, now no longer used by the RAF, as an alternative or back-up.

An operational spaceport would provide the whole of the UK, and indeed European neighbours as well, with a key piece of infrastructure for the aerospace industry.

Aerospace is recognised as a growth area for the UK economy, with a track record of growth and clear potential for the future. Small and innovative Scottish companies have been establishing a presence in the sector and demonstrating their own potential.

Spaceport Scotland is an initiative by people, companies and organisations in the north to stimulate interest in the possible use of a Scottish location for the UK's first operational spaceport.

For a Scottish site to become the UK's first spaceport would have a huge significance for the economy of Scotland. It's not simply the big boost for tourism, or the opportunities for hi-tech supplies and services. It's the spreading of the spirit of exploration and adventure that's taken shape in the sunshine of the Californian desert at Mojave.

And there are small and highly innovative Scottish companies moving forward in the space business, thinking strategically and turning ideas into reality.

You can find out here more about what's going on in space and what could happen in Scotland.