Scotland's space industry is experiencing some hugely exciting times – Angus Robertson
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Scotland has long had a connection with space exploration and space technology. Half a century ago, Neil Armstrong, an American of Scottish descent, took the first steps for mankind on the moon. Since then, Scotland has developed a burgeoning space technology sector and produces the most small satellites in the world outside the US. Key industry leaders are now aiming for Scotland to be the world’s leader in sustainable space technology, a development already noticed by the United Nations.
Many are surprised to hear that Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland play host to many exciting space businesses and projects. From Earth observation and data analysis to satellite design, manufacture, testing, launch and operations, the industry includes a huge array of renowned space businesses and organisations and aims to grow in value to £4 billion by 2030.
Scotland has strong roots in satellite manufacturing, rocket manufacturing, data and ground-breaking research. Excitingly, plans to develop the UK’s first vertical-launch spaceport are well advanced and it’s good to know the industry is conscious of the sector’s wider impact on the climate.
Key figures and organisations came together to develop the Space Sustainability Roadmap for Scotland, setting out goals to be achieved by 2025, 2035 and 2045. This was a collaborative project, with input from Space Scotland’s Environmental Task Force, funding by Scottish Enterprise, and production by Scottish firms AstroAgency and Optima. It addresses the environmental impacts of building, fuelling and launching spacecraft, as well as the importance of promoting satellite data for environmental monitoring.
One of the leaders of this movement is Daniel Smith, a member of the Scottish Space Leadership Council and chief executive of the space start-up AstroAgency, headquartered in central Edinburgh. The firm, which also has an office in Ukraine, focuses exclusively on supporting the global commercial space sector.
It has worked with over 50 organisations to date, from private companies like Glaswegian satellite producers Spire Global, to public bodies, and national governments. Daniel is a Global Scot, one of more than a thousand voluntary ambassadors who promote Scotland globally. His work is already receiving international attention with a growing awareness of his experience in space sustainability.
When I recently visited the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), there was great interest in the growing success of the Scottish space sector. Officials at UNOOSA are already aware of the groundbreaking work underway in Scotland which is relevant for their promotion of international cooperation in the peaceful use and exploration of space, and in the utilisation of space science and technology for sustainable economic and social development.
Scotland has a long and proud tradition of invention, engineering and scientific exploration, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that our nation is home to some of the most future-oriented technologies on the planet. It is immensely exciting, and will doubtless produce outcomes critical not only for the space sector but for the climate and humanity.
In the early 1970s, when space pioneer Neil Armstrong came to the land of his ancestors in Scotland, he also visited my nursery school: Hope Cottage Nursery in Newington. I don’t remember much about the big day, but was apparently starstruck by our astronaut visitor. How fitting that, half a century later, Neil Armstrong’s ancestral home country is making such great strides in space.