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Spaceport board approves £9.8m investment

Words: Huw Morris
Space / iStock-510853284-(1)

Plans for the UK’s first spaceport, which will launch micro satellites into space from northern Scotland, have taken a giant leap forward.

Regional development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is leading the £17 million project to create the UK’s first spaceport at Sutherland and support around 400 jobs. Its board has approved investment of up to £9.8 million in the facility while the UK Space Agency has unveiled a further £2.5 million towards the project.

HIE is expected to submit a planning application to Highland Council late next year. It will also consult the local community on its plans and a package of benefits the spaceport is expected to deliver, including donating 1 per cent of launch fees to residents.

The planning application will include a vertical launch site for small rockets to micro communication and earth-observation satellites at the Moine, on the Melness Crofting Estate near Tongue in north Sutherland.

The site is expected to host up to six launches a year, with the first rocket set for lift-off early in the next decade.

“The international space sector is set to grow very significantly in the coming years, and we want to ensure that our businesses are ready to reap the economic benefits that will be generated,” said HIE chief executive Charlotte Wright. “Establishing this launch site will not only deliver an exceptional local opportunity, with around 40 high-quality, skilled jobs being created in a fairly remote and rural part of Sutherland.  

“Crucially, we believe it will act as a driver to stimulate further space-related investment and business activity more widely across the Highlands and Islands and other parts of Scotland. The gross impact of that will mean that around 400 jobs will be supported through the supply chain.”

The UK Space Agency said the UK is competing for a major share of the international market for small satellites, with around 2,000 expected to be launched by 2030.

Commercial vertical and horizontal launch demand is worth a potential £3.8 billion to the UK economy over the next decade and will support further growth of the country’s space sector.

Lockheed Martin and Orbex are developing launch systems that will operate from Sutherland.

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Countdown begins for Highlands spaceport

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