The failure of Virgin Orbit’s maiden attempt to launch a commercial satellite into orbit from U.K. soil in January 2022 may have spelled doom for the country’s $281 billion construction and launch industry. However, a number of companies are persevering with projects aiming to build innovative satellites and equip the country with launch facilities.
The failure of Virgin Orbit’s maiden commercial satellite launch from British soil, and the company’s subsequent filing for bankruptcy protection, may have seemed like a fatal blow for the U.K.’s nascent space sector.
But a range of companies hope to play a key role in the business of building, launching and operating satellites, a $281 billion industry which has been growing rapidly over the past decade.
Billionaire-backed companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit have been revolutionizing the space industry over the last decade, which has seen advances in re-usable rockets, the deployment of thousands of small communication satellites and new launch sites opened.
To find out how smaller U.K.-based firms are looking to compete, CNBC visited a spaceport being built in the far north of the Shetland Islands, an established satellite-builder and a startup aiming to see one of its re-usable satellites finally make it into space.