The plan, the first of its kind in the world – and beyond – sets out the steps needed for rocket and satellite launches to achieve the long-term ambition to leave no debris in space, generate zero greenhouse gases from ground activities and for the country to gain global recognition as a leader in sustainable operations.
The space sector is rising faster in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK, with some of the highest space-related activity in Europe.
A number of spaceports offering vertical and horizontal launches are being planned and developed across Scotland with support from the UK Space Agency – locations include Shetland, Sutherland, Argyll, Prestwick and the Outer Hebrides.
Developed in collaboration with Space Scotland’s Environmental Task Force and funded by Scottish Enterprise, the Space Sustainability Roadmap for Scotland has set out a number of goals – to be achieved by 2025, 2035 and 2045.
Areas addressed include the environmental impacts of building, fuelling and launching spacecraft, as well as the importance of promoting satellite data for environmental monitoring.
Produced by space strategy firm AstroAgency in partnership with Glasgow-based Optima, it has been created based on interviews with national and international experts, in-depth research into other sustainability initiatives and consultation with the space industry.
Scotland has a national climate target to reach net zero emissions by 2045, five years ahead of the rest of the UK.
The Scottish Government has identified the space sector as a key opportunity for future economic growth, publishing the Scottish Space Strategy last October.
The aim is to create 20,000 jobs by 2030 and secure a £4 billion share of the global space market.
According to the UK Space Agency, Scotland is already “leading the way” in space sector jobs growth and now accounts for a fifth of all workers across the nation.
“Scotland’s space industry has enormous growth potential and is rightly recognised as a key new market opportunity within the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation,” said business minister Ivan McKee.
“The Scottish Government recognises the key role of space in the global fight against climate change.
“The Scottish space sector shares this collective responsibility and is already innovating through the use of greener fuels, lightweight materials, smart design and reusability.
“The Scottish Space Sustainability Roadmap is the next step in helping the sector reach net zero by 2045 and in setting an example for other nations.
“These are exactly the kind of actions necessary to help boost productivity, create sustainable jobs and position Scotland in the vanguard of responsible users of space across every part of the industry.”
Jane Martin, managing director at Scottish Enterprise, added: “It’s almost a year since Glasgow hosted COP26, where world leaders gathered to address climate change and the global action needed.
“This roadmap represents another historic moment in our journey towards net zero and is further proof of Scotland’s commitment to take positive environmental action.
“By working together, industry, academia and the public sector can find solutions to the worldwide challenge of making space more sustainable, helping to protect the earth and space for future generations.”
Planning permission has already been granted for the Saxavord Spaceport in Unst, Shetland, which will have three rocket pads, and Space Hub Sutherland, on working croft land in the far north of the Scottish mainland.
“The work behind this roadmap is unique because it is centred in action and leading the way globally in terms of sustainability of the whole space sector,” Kristina Tamane, space sector business development lead at University of Edinburgh and co-chair of the Environmental Task Force, said.
“This is a truly historic document which I am positive will lead to an environmentally conscious space sector development, led by Scotland.”
A £300,000 fund that will hand out grants of up to £30,000 for innovative projects using space data to aid Scotland’s transition to net zero has been launched as one of the early actions identified in the roadmap.
Dr Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “Scotland is a vital part of the UK’s growing space sector, which employs 47,000 people and generates an annual income of £16.5 billion.
“We welcome the new sustainable space roadmap, which is a strong statement of intent to reduce environmental impact.”