Aerospace and space

Historically, the world looked to Scotland for our trains and ships – now it’s our satellites.

Ripples in time and space

Scotland is leading on the world’s first ever Gravitational Wave Space Observatory planned for launch in the 2030s

80 Aerospace companies

There are 80 aerospace companies based in Scotland and soaring

£4 billion target by 2020

Scotland's aerospace industry plans to double its value from £2 billion to £4 billion by 2020

Engineering the future

Scotland’s strong background in advanced engineering, including R&D, design and manufacturing has a tradition of attracting high-technology companies.

But now we're as likely to be engineering software, as well as significant, complex and sophisticated projects - like maintaining the new generation of aircraft and pioneering new ways of forming advanced materials. And we also have a thriving space sector here, including satellite manufacture. 

That enduring strength, as well as our experienced skills base and a competitive cost structure, has helped to build an internationally-recognised space industry - Scotland has 80 aerospace companies employing more than 7600 highly-skilled people.

With year on growth projected above 6%, Scotland has the ambition to grow its role in space from a £2 billion industry today to a £4 billion one by 2030.

Who's already in Scotland?

With so much to offer, it's no wonder Scotland has drawn so many global industry names:

  • Axon Cable
  • BAE Systems Regional Aircraft
  • Chevron Aircraft Maintenance
  • Fluid Gravity Engineering
  • GE Caledonian
  • Ion Concept Systems Group 
  • Leonardo
  • Raytheon
  • Rolls Royce
  • Spire
  • Spirit Aerosystems
  • TomTom Software
  • UTC Aerospace Systems
  • Vector Aerospace
  • Veripos
  • W. L. Gore and Associates
  • Woodward Group

Why Spire chose Scotland

We helped California-based satellite data specialists Spire get set up in Scotland quickly and easily. Skilled talent, access to risk capital and the support we offer to innovative companies are among the top reasons Spire chose to set up here.

Scotland's spaceport and space sector

The first spaceport in Europe is to be built in Scotland. Sutherland, in the north of Scotland, is the site for the dedicated vertical rocket launch site. 

Once the site is operational, it is expected that Scotland could host up to six launches each year, with the first rocket possibly taking off early next decade.

Scotland’s space economy had revenues of £2.5bn in 2017, which is estimated to grow to £4.2 billion between 2021-2030. The ability to deliver reliable launches from Scotland will put the country at the centre of the European space programme.

Scotland will become a centre of space expertise

The north of Scotland, with its historic expertise in the oil, gas, nuclear and now wind and tidal energy sectors, already boasts a highly skilled workforce and active supply chain.

Transferable skills from these industries, as well as the stream of highly-qualified graduates emerging from North Highland College, will provide the technical expertise to help the project take off.

Business located in the north of Scotland also benefit from:

  • A supportive business environment
  • Ready availability of commercial property and serviced plots
  • Existing digital infrastructure
  • Excellent research support from Scotland’s world-class universities
  • Natural beauty
  • An outstanding quality of life
  • Support from Scottish Development International and Highlands and Islands Enterprise

With the above factors, and Scotland manufacturing more micro-satellites than any other country in Europe, and Scotland is on track to become a European hub for space companies and professionals.

Forming and forging ahead

The Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) is a globally-recognised centre of excellence in innovative manufacturing technologies and metal forming and forging research.

The AFRC helps companies, like yours, de-risk and accelerate the introduction of new technologies, materials and processes. 

In addition to the world-class facilities, AFRC can draw upon the wider capabilities and expertise of the University of Strathclyde.

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Creating technology that will explain the Universe

Scientists in Scotland will work on the world’s first ever Gravitational Wave Space Observatory, which will study ripples in space and time, thanks to an initial £1.7 million of funding from the UK Space Agency.

The work of the University of Glasgow’s Institute for Gravitational Research and the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) in Edinburgh, will develop the optical benches for the European Space Agency’s LISA mission (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna). These optical benches are at the core of the laser interferometry measurement system, the key technology needed to detect gravitational waves.

Scheduled to launch in the 2030s, the space observatory will allow scientists to study these mysterious waves, improving our knowledge of the beginning, evolution and structure of the Universe. It will build on the success the LISA Pathfinder mission, which in 2016 successfully demonstrated the technology needed for LISA.

“The University of Glasgow has a worldwide reputation for gravitational waves research, with the pioneering work of Professor Ron Drever in the 1960s leading to the Nobel Prize-winning detection of the waves in 2015. This new funding ensures this legacy continues with the LISA mission, alongside crucial technology innovation from the UK ATC in Edinburgh. Scotland is yet again at the heart of UK space activity.”

Chris Lee, Head of Space Science at the UK Space Agency

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