From ships to satellites: Scotland aims for the sky

A shipbuilding hub since the days of the British Empire, the Scottish city of Glasgow is now reaching for the stars with a growing space satellite industry.

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Glasgow builds more satellites than any city outside of the United States, according to space industry experts, specialising in small ‘CubeSats’ that can be used for anything from weather forecasting to global positioning.

“Scotland has always been famous for making ships — and today we’re making spaceships,” Peter Anderson, head of business development at satellite maker Clyde Space, told AFP.

The company’s offices are just a few metres from the imposing Finnieston Crane, a relic of the River Clyde’s shipbuilding past once used to lift tanks and steam trains onto ships.

Clyde Space launched Scotland’s first ever satellite in 2014 and within two years it was producing six satellites every month.

That set off a period of rapid growth in the space industry, which insiders hope will get a further boost from rumoured plans to build two new spaceports in Scotland.

Britain’s plans for a home-grown space industry have been stepped up amid concerns it will be banned after Brexit from bidding for contracts on the European Union’s $12 billion Galileo global positioning system.

The UK wants complete access to Galileo as it played a major role in the development of the system, which is expected to be fully operational in 2026, but the EU has decided to move a satellite monitoring base from Britain to Spain to “preserve security”.

Prime Minister Theresa May has created a taskforce of engineering and aerospace experts, led by the UK Space Agency, “to develop options for a British Global Navigation Satellite System that would guide missiles and power satnavs”, the government said.

‘Costs more than gold’
In Scotland, the space sector has grown by over 70 per cent since 2010 to a turnover of £2.7 billion last year, according to aerospace trade body ADS Scotland. The industry employs some 7,500 people, the group said.

Clyde Space shares an office complex with US satellite firm Spire Global which has built 80 satellites in Glasgow since 2014.

AFP

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