A strategic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed by companies from the US and Scotland taking them a step closer to Scottish manned space launch. The US manned space launch vehicle designer XCOR Aerospace has signed with spaceplane design and operating company Orbital Access Limited and Glasgow Prestwick Spaceport. This partnership is supported by Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Government’s economic development agency.
The space launch service would be run by Orbital Access Limited as the first of a network of similar services at emerging horizontal launch spaceports worldwide. The MoU leads the way for the establishment of manned launch services at Prestwick using XCOR’s Lynx spacecraft with support from existing Scottish aerospace organizations. XCOR would also collaborate to establish new industrial and support activities at Prestwick, and within the wider Scottish space and aerospace sector.
Announcing the strategic collaboration at Farnborough International Airshow, Orbital Access CEO Stuart McIntyre set out the vision for a global launch service using the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, working alongside the unique aerospace industrial capabilities found in the Scottish aerospace sector.
Many of the companies' leaders were pleased to make statements.
Orbital Access CEO Stuart McIntyre stated, “The Lynx represents a highly versatile manned spacecraft to service space research missions in zero gravity, and provide academics and industry with a unique and responsive research environment. It can also support leisure sub-orbital flights. This will complement our satellite launch systems, which are in development, and complete the suite of launch services Orbital Access will be offering at spaceports globally.”
Mike Stewart, Business Development Director at Glasgow Prestwick Spaceport added, “Glasgow Prestwick Spaceport is fortunate enough to already have the UK’s only space launch company, Orbital Access Limited, based right on its doorstep. Signing the Memorandum of Understanding with Orbital Access and XCOR is a further step forward in our work to make space launches from our site a reality.
“We already have the vast majority of the infrastructure in place and with as little as £1million investment we could be up and running. Having a pipeline of partners, customers and suppliers in place will be hugely helpful in pulling together the business case for the investment required to get up and running.
“The progress that we are making now that the UK Government has decided to make this a licensing regime rather than a bidding process demonstrates that this was the right decision for the industry and the UK economy. This has allowed the market to accelerate the process and decide where it feels that launches can be best delivered. We are delighted that Orbital Access and XCOR have decided that the best place for them is Glasgow Prestwick Spaceport and that they are establishing operational bases onsite.”
Adding to the conversation, Jay Gibson CEO President of XCOR stated, “Strategic aerospace industrial partnerships and strong routes to market characterise our approach to bringing this ground breaking system to fruition. Our unique reusable rocket motor technology is at the core of the Lynx and we are looking forward to working with partners in the Scottish aerospace and space sector.”
The MoU sets out an action plan for defining operations at Prestwick and establishing a global operational deployment model for Orbital Access Limited.
Speaking at the Farnborough event, Dr Philippa Whiteford MP commented on this new partnership, saying, "I was delighted to have been able to play my part in Prestwick's future by convincing the UK Government to abandon their plan for a single Spaceport site, rumoured to be Newquay, and instead establish a licensing system to allow all sites to compete on their merits. Prestwick is now leading the race as it already has the key requisites for a Spaceport in its long runway, clear weather and associated aerospace expertise.
"I applaud the enthusiasm and determination of our Spaceport Team and welcome the agreements established this week between the Airport, local aerospace companies and space launch businesses. This, along with their links to Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities, is turning Prestwick into a real Aero-Space Campus."