PLANS to launch the first rockets into space from the UK could provide a big boost for Oxfordshire.

Sutherland on the northern coast of Scotland was announced yesterday as the site of the UK’s first ‘spaceport’, capable of launching rockets vertically into orbit.

With 80 private, public and academic organisations connected to the space sector at Harwell Campus, the county is hoping the news will bring further business to the area.

Last year UK Space Agency (UKSA) representatives told scientists at the campus that more companies could be tempted to set up in Harwell if a spaceport was built in the UK.

Currently companies wanting to launch spacecraft must travel to spaceports in other countries such as the United States.

A rocket, based on Lockheed’s electron rocket, will be developed to launch from Scotland.

The British version of this rocket, which currently flies out of New Zealand, will be partially built at Harwell along with Ampthill in Bedfordshire and in Reading.

Claire Barcham, of the UKSA said in November: “Harwell is very important to the UK space sector. It’s the gateway for companies to get involved.

“A spaceport would really boost the whole space economy and a crucial hub of that is here in Harwell.

“It would have benefits not just to companies building the spaceport or rockets, but also wider services.”