FARNBOROUGH, England — The U.K. has selected Lockheed Martin to help develop its first domestic commercial spaceport in Melness, Scotland — an effort that could be of interest to the U.S. military as it hunts for a means to launch satellites into orbit.
Lockheed is teamed with Moog, Orbital Micro Systems, the University of Leicester, Surrey Satellite Technology, Satellite Applications Catapult, SCISYS, Lena Space, Reaction Engines and Netherlands Space Office on the project.
The first launch from Melness is scheduled for the “early 2020s,” per Lockheed.
“The countdown to the first orbital rocket launch from U.K. soil has officially begun," Patrick Wood, Lockheed Martin’s U.K. country executive for space, said in a statement. “This initiative will not only spark advancements in science and innovation, it will create new opportunities for current and future U.K.-based suppliers to become part of the next space age."
The United Kingdom has not been shy about its desire to get in on the burgeoning commercial space launch industry, with a 2015 National Space Strategy calling for the U.K. to own 10 percent of the industry by 2030.
The launch site development is being led by Scottish government economic and community development agency Highlands & Islands Enterprise, with Lockheed providing “strategic support and guidance.”
Lockheed also has a hand in the first payload scheduled to be launched from the location, designed to release up to six cubesats, including Lockheed’s LM 50 system.
While the location is not focused on defense, the militaries of the U.S. and others have become increasingly interested in using commercial space launch to get constellations of military satellites, including smaller systems, into orbit.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.