Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today spoken out in a debate on the future of the UK space industry by recognising the progress of the Shetland Space Centre on Unst and warning against ministers favouring one spaceport site over another. Mr Carmichael highlighted recent partnership announcements by Lockheed Martin and High Impulse with the Shetland site, and reminded ministers that those companies in the industry were best placed to know how to develop its potential.
Speaking virtually in the debate, Mr Carmichael said:
“It is exciting to watch the way in which the UK space industry is currently growing, but it’s worth remembering that the roots of that growth were in the Civil Space Strategy of 2012-2016 launched by the then-Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts.
“At the time he said:
“The possibilities of the next 50 years represent something very inspiring for this country. Our pragmatic approach to private and public sector partnerships have helped pave the way for a new area of space activity in Britain, with the UK Space Agency leading the way. So, a strategy is more than simply words. A strategy can shape the future.”
“The progress that we have seen since then has brought us to the point in Shetland where we are proud to be home to the ever-growing Shetland Space Centre in Unst.
“Last year we were delighted to welcome the partnership between Unst and Lockheed Martin as the preferred site for their UK pathfinder launch operation. We hope to hear further information soon with regards to their future intentions. This week we were delighted to hear the announcement of the intention of High Impulse, a German company, to launch from Unst their maiden orbital flight in 2023. So, the question then is then how do we go forward?
“We were dismayed to read recently in the Press and Journal that the view of the Scottish Minister Fiona Hyslop was that the Sutherland site was best placed to achieve the first launch by next year. There are opportunities for all the communities that are involved in the growth of the UK space sector, and that that was a rather bold assertion which was somewhat ill considered. It does not help anyone for the Scottish Government to be seen to be favouring one site over another.
“We must build the strongest possible engagement with the companies that are doing the business in this sector rather than relying on information that may come from politicians or public sector agencies who may occasionally have an axe to grind. Let us leave the commercial decisions to the companies who know best and who will put their money where their mouths are.”