Hundreds of space jobs will be created in Scotland following UK Government approval for Lockheed Martin plans to transfer its satellite launch operations to Shetland Space Centre.

Shetland Space Centre anticipates that by 2024, the spaceport site could support a total of 605 jobs in Scotland including 140 locally and 210 across the wider Shetland region. A further 150 jobs will also be created through wider manufacturing and support services.

“Following a thorough process of due diligence, the UK Space Agency has confirmed that Lockheed Martin’s plans to move its UK Pathfinder Launch to the Shetland site at Lamba Ness on Unst would continue to deliver long-term value and help establish a sustainable, commercial launch market as part of the UK’s spaceflight programme – LaunchUK.”

Lockheed Martin say it is in discussions with a preferred partner to provide launch services for its UK Pathfinder Launch, which would take place from Shetland Space Centre.

UK Government Amanda Solloway, Science Minister, said:

“We want the UK to be the best place in Europe to launch satellites, attracting innovative businesses from all over the world and creating hundreds of high-skilled jobs. The potential to have multiple spaceports in Scotland demonstrates the scale of our ambition, and I want to support industry by pressing ahead with our plans during this challenging time. This government is committed to backing our growing space sector, developing a comprehensive space strategy and supporting transformative technologies that will benefit people and businesses across the country.”

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said:

“The UK Government is committed to cementing the UK’s position as a global leader in the space sector. The creation of the Shetland Space Centre is incredibly exciting news and a real boost for the local economy. Our investment in Scottish spaceports is creating hundreds of secure and skilled jobs for people in Scotland. The Shetland Space Centre a huge step forward for our ambitious UK Spaceflight programme.”

Just as an airport can handle a range of different airlines and aircraft, ‘Space Hub Sutherland’ has been designed to cater for the needs of multiple launch providers.

“This ensures it will be able to continue to compete for a wide range of exciting vertical launch opportunities.”

The UK Space Agency say it will also continue to fully support Space Hub Sutherland through grant funding to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop the spaceport infrastructure and to UK-based launch partner, Orbex, to prepare its innovative Prime rocket to launch from the site in 2022.

An economic assessment of the Spaceport Sutherland site reported in 2019 that the site is due to create over 60 high-skilled jobs in Sutherland and Caithness, and 250 jobs in the wider area.

Ivan McKee, Scottish Government Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation said:

“This is an extremely exciting time for the emerging space sector globally, and Scotland is situated at the very forefront of this. The transfer of Lockheed Martin’s UK pathfinder satellite launch to Shetland Space Centre will enhance Scotland’s existing vertical launch capability and enable us to target a wider market base through a complementary offer across multiple spaceports. This will provide an economic boost not only to the Shetland Isles but also maximise the commercial opportunity across the wider region, with Highlands and Islands Enterprise leading the delivery of Space Hub Sutherland alongside Scottish-based launch partner, Orbex.”

Scotland is already home to some of the world’s most innovative satellite manufacturers.

Nik Smith, UK Country Executive at Lockheed Martin, said:

“The UK has a vibrant space sector, which can stimulate the national as well as regional economies. As a long-standing strategic partner to the UK, Lockheed Martin is committed to building on its proud heritage to support the UK government’s role of growing capabilities in space, exciting imagination and advancing the frontiers of science. From the outset our focus has been on realising the greatest economic benefit for the UK through the Spaceflight programme. The transfer of our UK spaceflight operations to Shetland will not only broaden launch options available in the UK, but also ensure the economic benefits of these endeavours are felt more widely.”

The UK’s spaceflight programme – LaunchUK – is working with a range of additional partners to establish commercial vertical and horizontal small satellite launch from UK spaceports including Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit.

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It’s a shame we cannot reactivate Spadeadam on the Cumbria / Northumberland border. It’s in the middle of nowhere. Good spot for huge fire crackers.


I believe Top Gear had a go, but it wasn’t successful. Fastest Reliant Robin ever though!


The trouble is Spadeadam is quite far inland and so expended rocket stages would likely have to drop over land also. Launching into a polar-ish orbit from Shetland would of course avoid this problem, and should permit lower inclination launches, if stages are expended into the North Sea.

Also eases stage recovery and re-use if Orbex goes that route (or should I say trajectory)


I thought the point these days was to return the stages and reuse them. Indeed allow them to land vertically. As per Space X? Are we really going to build a space port on an island in the wilds of north Scotland? Ive been to Hebrides, its lovely, great beaches…. But it has no trees for a reason.


Not that simple, you still need space for failures and crashes, (Theres a reason Space x launches over water) plus that only goes for the first stage boosters. Once you start doing multi-stage rockets they start to become non-recoverable.

Plus even Space X can launch Falcon 9 non recoverable for increased payload/range.


I can’t imagine people in Edinburgh being very happy about that.


Personally I feel the UK should have signed up with:
Space X
Blue Orion
Virgin Atlantic (I think the RAF have loaned a pilot to Branson)
Or even Apple founder Paul Allen and his version of the Spruce Goose

Last edited 4 months ago by farouk
Levi Goldsteinberg

That’s correct, McKay is the surname of the ex-RAF pilot; I used to know his son. Top bloke

We also have Virgin Orbit setting up in Cornwall


Just to correct, Paul Allen was a Microsoft founder though sadly like Steve Jobs before him, he passed away a couple years back.


Only issue is SpaceX and Blue Origin don’t seem particularly interested in Launching from the UK. Space-X is currently very much centering it’s efforts around Falcon 9 and Starship, it’s aims are at Lunar and LEO (ISS) orbits the, all it’s production facilities are in the US, and it has several launch sites that already serve it’s needs, I don’t see it paying to ship over, or manufacture Falcon rockets in the UK. Blue Origin on is focused squarely on space tourism, and the Artemis program and again, all it’s manufacture sites are in the US. If you’re paying to… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Nice summary. Probably about time George promoted the Space domain to the header row on the web site as the fifth domain, rather than a sub-set under Air.


Royal Space Force confirmed?

Glass Half Full

Perhaps we should pace ourselves on that? The US attracted some mirth when they announced their force, so I’d say a more modest UK Enterprise might hold off on grandiose titles for a while 😉


Too late! We need Her Majesties Special Planetary Investigative Force For Inhabiting New Galaxies
Do it for England (and the other bits left too)!

Last edited 4 months ago by Dern
Glass Half Full

Ah, I must have missed the installation of rocket engines in the Elizabeth Tower, my mistake, carry on!


Hey Glass Half Full…. have you seen the news today?

Glass Half Full

I hadn’t, but have now, thanks. To infinity and beyond … or to a really, really big number anyway 😉

From Left to Right:
Astra’s Rocket 3 (Flying out of the Pacific Launch Complex Alaska)
Rocket Lab Electron (Flying out of Mahia Launch Complex and MARS, interest in Shetland/Sutherland)
Orbex Prime (planned to fly out of Sutherland)
Virgin Launcher One (Planned to fly out of Cornwall Space Port, Mojave Space Port, and others)
Firefly Alpha (Planned launches out of Vandeberg Space Port and Cape Canaveral)
SpaceX Falcon 9 (Launching from Cape Canaveral/Kennedy and Vandeberg)
SpaceX Starship (Canaveral/Kennedy)

Glass Half Full

Thanks. Certainly provides perspective. Have to say that Starship looks for all the world like something from Dan Dare, or hints of Fireball XL5 with all those fins, which definitely dates me.

It would be interesting to understand the economics of the Starlink launches with Falcon 9 versus using the smaller rockets with more frequent launches for placing satellites in LEO. I assume Falcon 9, especially with re-use of components, is significantly less expensive but would be interesting to know by how much.


I think in terms of dollar to kg ratio for LEO it’s hard to beat Falcon 9 these days. Last I checked it cost about 2,000 USD per kilo on a Falcon 9, which is peanuts compared to what ULA charges. The problem is you don’t actually get charged per kg when you book a rocket. So for example if I launched the full 23,000kg LEO load, discarding the booster on a Falcon 9 the cost comes to about 2,000USD per kg for the 62mUSD that I have to spend on the Falcon 9. But if I only want to… Read more »

Glass Half Full

We are still at very early stages in terms of these smaller rocket companies, so perhaps the costs will come down, if we get to a stage where they can leverage economies of scale. Especially if industry leverages the type of manufacturing that Orbex is developing, driving down rocket weight, combined with recovery, to help drive down costs/increase efficiency even at low volumes. Interesting times.


Should open an equatorial launch complex on Ascension Island.


Plenty room there with only 800 inhabitants and much communications and landing facilities in place. I wonder how the runway repairs are going-it seems a neverending saga! Would be nice to see the Falklands airlink via Wideawake restored as well.


Would be a good idea, only issues would be: 1) freight of satellites and rockets to ascension: It’s a long way away from anywhere and nothing Space is produced on the island. At least Shetland/Sunderland are in the UK where a lot of Satilites are produced (Sat’s are fragile and need gentle handeling, small ones could be flown to Ascension, larger ones would need to go by boat). 2) Competition with Azores. See my post above, of the 5 currently possible UK launch companies, 2 are already looking into launching from the Azores, and one from MARS. Ascension will need… Read more »