The space sector is growing faster in Scotland than any other part of the UK and is aiming to reach a worth of £4 billion by 2030, as set out by the Scottish Space Strategy. Collaboration among industry, academia and the public sector demonstrates the determination of our space community to work together to deliver this ambitious agenda.
Over a few short years Scotland has developed a world class space industry. The city of Glasgow manufactures more small satellites than any other city in Europe; Edinburgh hosts Europe’s largest centre for informatics and is the location of over 170 data science companies. In fact, Scotland is home to around one fifth of the UK’s space workforce, currently employing 8,440 people in the industry.
It’s not just home-grown companies that are part of our burgeoning space sector. California-based Spire, a pioneer in the industry, design, test and build their own satellites in Scotland. US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin is also developing launch operations from the SaxaVord spaceport site in Shetland.
Our coastlines and landscapes are not only beautiful and idyllic, but also make Scotland an ideal location for spaceports, and will be home to five of the seven proposed in the UK, and the only vertical launch spaceports in the UK. This means that designing, manufacturing and launching small satellites can all be done in Scotland.
In 2022, Earth Blox in Edinburgh displayed its revolutionary satellite data analysis software in an online seminar with its partner, Google.
Established in 2019, Earth Blox is the foremost provider of consumer-level satellite intelligence. This data tracks deforestation and aids agriculture. It also monitors climate change, and speeds up natural disaster response times.
Earth observation is a major activity of the space sector. It involves hundreds of satellites recording various types of data about the planet, and streaming it back down to specialised ground stations.
“We are proud to support companies from any sector who are hard at work addressing humanitarian, environmental, or sustainability challenges. Our ambition is to make Earth observation data accessible to all those that work, live and breathe sustainability.”
Supported by the University of Edinburgh, Earth Blox is powering STRATA. This United Nations' scheme was designed to identify areas where climate, environmental, and security stresses overlap.
As a sector that is traditionally perceived as having a high carbon footprint, companies in Scotland are working to reduce the impact of the space race on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and waste.
From developing new spaceports to satellite-monitoring of the health of our seas and forests, Scotland is meeting these challenges with a climate perspective.
Two Scottish companies - Skyrora and Orbex - are already repurposing waste from biodiesel and plastics to produce a ‘green’ rocket fuel.
In early 2022 Skyrora opened a new launch vehicle manufacturing and production facility near Glasgow. The largest plant of its kind in the UK, the facility will build rockets to carry small satellites into orbit.
Clearing the skies
Scotland takes its environmental responsibilities seriously and our new Space Sustainability: Roadmap for Scotland includes a commitment to reduce space debris in Earth's orbit. One such project has come from the University of Strathclyde. A team have been working on space sensors to detect and analyse how such junk fragments on re-entry.
Looking up, looking down
Scottish space technology is also helping to tackle the twin global problems of biodiversity loss and the climate crisis.
Eolas Insight, in Glasgow, is working with the European Space Agency to track elephant migration in Mozambique to improve environmental conservation.
Alongside fellow Glasgow tech start-up Omanos Analytics it will use the satellite data it records to reduce the social and environmental impacts of critical infrastructure projects. The data can be used to ensure that projects do not obstruct migration routes, so elephants can continue to have safe passages
The project is based on previous work the start-up did with NatureScot, using satellites to track changes in Scotland’s wild red deer population.
This isn’t only good global citizenship, if there is anyone out there, it’s good intergalactic citizenship.
We have lift-off!
Find out more about Scotland's thriving space industry and explore the opportunities to locate, operate and grow your space project in Scotland by visiting Scotland's space industry opportunities and end-to-end space capabilities (sdi.co.uk).
You can also find out more about Scotland’s strongest industries by visiting our page on Scotland’s key business sectors.