As executive chairman of this year's highly anticipated Space-Comm Expo Scotland event, the Scottish founder of Virgin Galactic, Will Whitehorn, remains  highly optimistic on the sector's lofty ambitions

FOR two days, on September 11 and 12 this autumn, the eyes of the global space community will be on Glasgow, as the City hosts Space-Comm Expo, Scotland’s largest-ever exhibition for the space community.

The fact that it is being hosted in Glasgow is testimony to the central role Scotland now plays in the UK’s commercial space initiatives.

Will Whitehorn, the founder of Virgin Galactic, who is himself a Scot, is the executive chairman of this year’s event. As a passionate advocate for the space industry, Whitehorn has little patience with people who argue that we have way too many problems right now on Earth to worry about space.

“What people who say things like that fail to realise is that our space initiatives are absolutely crucial to the continued existence of humans on this planet,” he argues. “We certainly could not feed the nearly seven billion people alive today without the information that is being beamed down constantly from the current generation of satellites. Their role in global food production is now vital.

“Without GPS to co-ordinate the logistics of transporting food, much of what is produced around the world would rot in the ports,” he adds. 

Whitehorn points out that it is no longer a fantasy to think that solar energy can be beamed down to Earth via microwaves from space. 

“This technology exists today and in the next five years or so, we will see a tremendous revolution in the way we generate energy. The only way we will get planet Earth to net zero will be through moving power generation off the ground and into space. This is not only doable, it is happening. The next generation of satellites are already on the drawing board,” he says. 

He points out that the series of Acts passed by the US Congress to open up space to commercial space launches and satellite production, along with similar commercialisation efforts in the UK and Europe, have transformed the industry massively. 

“We simply could not have reached the position that the space industry is in today without opening the field up to industry and private initiatives. Launches were costing Nasa around $2 billion every time the shuttle launched. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has cut that by a massive 90% and that cost is still falling,” he notes.

Cheap launches are fundamental to the development of the global space industry, and Scotland is at the forefront of UK and European launch ambitions.

“What we are seeing today is an absolute explosion of innovation in this sector. We have reached the point where humanity is now totally reliant on the space industry. For me, personally, getting power generation off the planet and outside the atmosphere, so that we are no longer generating greenhouse gasses in our hunger for energy, will be one of the biggest wins the space sector will produce.

“The internet, streaming movies, social media and the AI revolution, not to mention the crypto-currency mining mania, is leading to the massive proliferation of energy-hungry data centres worldwide. 

“Already one-third of the power that Ireland produces, for example, is consumed by data centres. This demand can only grow as the AI revolution takes hold. Getting cheap power from space with zero CO2 implications is an absolute necessity, and this is just one of the things that the space industry will do for Planet Earth.” 

Whitehorn points out that the Scottish space industry is thriving and is one of the fastest-growing space sectors in Europe. “Glasgow is a world leader in satellite construction. Scotland is home to the world’s newest spaceport in the Shetland Isles," he says. 

“It will be a strategic launchpad for polar orbits. We already have multiple launch vehicle operators stepping up with groundbreaking technologies,” he adds. “I have even had major law firms contacting me, wanting to get involved in this burgeoning industry.” 

At the same time, Scotland is famous for world-class, downstream data capabilities and technology for deep space missions. It is home to over 150 space companies and the sector is underpinned by government, business, clusters and universities.

Space-Comm Expo Scotland is supported by the Scottish Government, UK Space Agency, UKspace, Scottish Enterprise, South of Scotland Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and Space Scotland with plans to attract international delegations and visitors from across Europe and the global space community, alongside primes, SMEs and start-ups.

Until this year, the Space-Comm Expo event was held in Farnborough. It is now expanding to a series of events in Glasgow, London and Dubai.

This showcases the importance of Scotland in the UK’s commercial space initiatives. Scottish-based companies will be to the fore alongside international exhibitors, product demonstrations, keynote speakers, multiple conference theatres and roundtables, along with one-to-one networking opportunities. 

Space-Comm Expo is FREE to attend. To register or for exhibitor enquiries, visit: