Glasgow puts itself on the map in the space race

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on April 8, 2019 - Duration: 02:14s

Glasgow puts itself on the map in the space race

Scotland is famous for several things: the beautiful scenery, whisky and of course smoked salmon.

But now they've got another industry to gloat about.

Katie Gregory has been finding out what's fuelling Scotland's space boom.


Glasgow puts itself on the map in the space race

Glasgow is well known for its history of shipbuilding but now the city is carving out a name for itself in a new era of exploration.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) JEROEN CAPPAERT, CTO, SPIRE, SAYING; "Spire is a space-based data analytics company.

And we use a unique sensor platform that's located in space.

It's a constellation of nanosatellites.

And here in Glasgow in the clean room behind us we build all of those satellites here." It's called NewSpace, a term used for the private spaceflight industry, companies that are developing affordable access to space.

Spire started in the U.S. but the company has chosen Glasgow as it's Europe hub.

They design the nanosatellites then sell the data they collect across three main markets - maritime, aviation, and weather.

Currently there are 72 Spire nanosats in orbit.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) JOEL SPARK, CHIEF SATELLITE ARCHITECT, SPIRE, SAYING; "If a single satellite used to cost you know $200-300 million, you can't deploy a fleet of several hundred of them.

But now because the individual satellite is getting less expensive you can just do things that weren't possible before." Across the other side of Glasgow, start-up Alba Orbital is building satellites that are even smaller.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) , TOM WALKINSHAW, CEO & FOUNDER, ALBA ORBITAL Ltd, SAYING; "The goal of Alba Orbital is to help democratize access to space by pioneering Pocketqube satellites, which are 5-by-5-by-5 centimeter cube satellites.

So these are the smallest satellites to ever fly in space." Tom Walkinshaw founded his company in Glasgow six years ago because - at that time - it was hard to find a job in his field.

But since then things have changed for Scotland's Space Industry.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) , TOM WALKINSHAW, CEO & FOUNDER, ALBA ORBITAL Ltd, SAYING; "Glasgow builds more satellites than almost anywhere else in the world.

We're currently the top city in Europe for satellite production rate.

In the future we could be top city globally." The company's Unicorn 2 satellite costs around $250,000 for hardware and launch and most of its customers are start-ups themselves.

Nine of Alba Orbital's spacecraft are scheduled to launch later this year and the goal is to eventually produce one satellite a month.

The UK is hoping to capture 10 percent of the global space market by 2030.

Next year will mark the debut of the country's first space port and it will be on Scotland's north coast.

So the UK Space industry has high hopes and the potential for Glasgow in all of this, is truly out of this world.

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