A space business based in the UK will be launching satellites from Malta when it sets up its European headquarters on the island.

Stuart McIntyre, CEO of Orbital Access, which develops space launch facilities and systems, told The Sunday Times of Malta that the decision to set up a European base here was due to the island’s excellent location for the launching of satellites, and also because of Brexit.

 “The UK is of course very good for launching satellites to the North, but is very bad for launching equatorially to the East. And so we came to Malta expressly to look at the development of a launch site at Luqa, for a spaceport, to be able to take our systems off to launch to the East,” Mr McIntyre said.

He said it was important to operate as part of the European space community and that Brexit “was absolutely a factor in our decision”.

The satellite launches will involve a reusable space plane that is slung underneath a conventional, wide body aircraft. That aircraft will come into Luqa for launch operations. 

“The system would fly from Luqa over the Mediterranean and then release the space plane, which would then take the payloads to their orbits. The space plane would return to land as an ordinary airplane.”

Mr McIntyre said Orbital Access also intends to build a space industrial cluster around the Luqa airport and offer space-related aviation services. He said the satellite industry was changing.

“The important feature of this industry is that technology miniaturisation is driving the size of satellites down and down, and as satellites become smaller, they also become less expensive, which means they become truly commercial.

“Before they were huge, they were national programmes, they took years to build, costing billions of dollars, but now they are small, cheap and commercial.”

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