GLASGOW Prestwick Airport has a launch partner for its spaceport development in a deal that will boost Scotland’s space industry ambitions.

Prestwick, with its partner South Ayrshire Council, yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a leading UK horizontal air launch company Astraius.

The agreement brings together their proven horizontal launch technology – allowing the release of a rocket carrying small satellites from high altitude – with a world class spaceport development, in response to a growing demand.

The global satellite market is booming, with operators of technology no larger than a shoebox looking to access “low Earth orbit” to carry out activities including monitoring climate change, tracking deforestation and identifying illegal fishing or mining activities around the globe.

The announcement will substantially bolster Scotland’s space industry ambitions.

Glasgow already manufactures more small satellites than anywhere in the world outside of California, while Edinburgh has positioned itself as the space data capital of Europe, leading on the analysis of space derived data to benefit business sectors, the environment and wider society.

Prestwick Spaceport forms a key part of a growing ecosystem of companies that will act as a catalyst to stimulate economic activity around space, boosted by funding form the multi-million pound Ayrshire Growth Deal.

Scotland’s Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, Ivan McKee was among those welcoming the MoU.

He said: “The Memorandum of Understanding with Astraius as a launch partner is great news for the Prestwick Spaceport and signifies a major step towards bringing horizontal launch capability to Scotland.

“Our ambition is for Scotland to be Europe’s leading space nation and to have a £4 billion share of the global space market by 2030, whilst developing launch capability – both vertical and horizontal – to serve small satellite producers.

“The announcement today brings us a step closer to achieving our ambition and proves once again the versatility and dynamism of the Scottish space sector.” Glasgow Prestwick Airport’s commercial director, Zoe Kilpatrick, said: “Glasgow Prestwick Airport is perfectly positioned to become a leading provider of space launch services after being at the forefront of aviation and aerospace for almost 100 years.

“In Astraius we have identified a partner with the vision, expertise, and proven technology to help fast-track our ambition to become Europe’s premier launch location, offering spaceflight as part of a proposition that stretches beyond launch, bringing a wide range of space related benefits to the region.”

Astraius chairman, Sir George Zambellas, added: “Astraius exists to provide a dependable, affordable and agile means of launching the world’s next generation of small satellites.

“In joining with Prestwick Spaceport, we now have the partner that will allow us to make this vision a reality.”