The building of a spaceport in northern Scotland could start within the year, depending on the receipt of a development consent proposal from the council.
The Scottish spaceport, to be named Space Hub Sutherland, will be located at A’Mhoine on the Moine Peninsula in Sutherland. It would enable small spacecraft to be placed in near-Earth polar and solar synchronous orbits by vertical launchers.
At the beginning of August, the HIE (Highlands and Islands Enterprise), a regional Scottish Executive for economic and local government affairs, underwrote a 75-year leasing agreement for the ground on which the facility is to be constructed.
The project, estimated to be worth £17 million, was granted £2.4 million in financing from the UK Space Agency in July 2018.
Roy Kirk, Space Hub Sutherland project manager at HIE stated:
“We expect to receive building approval at the beginning of 2020 and begin building shortly thereafter. If everything is successful, we expect to be able to start Sutherland launches by the beginning of 2020s.”
At the start of this year, HIE contracted the engineering firm NORR Consultants to assist in the development of installations at the Space Hub, such as a launch operations center and the assembly and integration complex.
Earlier, Lockheed Martin and the UK aeronautical and space enterprise Orbex had agreed to lift off from the Sutherland spaceport in the expectation of achieving as many as 10 lift-offs annually.
This is part of efforts to launch satellites into space from the Scottish Highlands. In July 2018, the UK Space Agency (UKSA) announced that it was backing proposals to develop a vertical launch site at The Moine, Sutherland.
The launch site is expected to create around 61 highly skilled jobs in Caithness and Sutherland. At a regional level, the local council estimate this figure will multiply to 250 jobs, with launch activities making Caithness and Sutherland the hub of a significant new space sector.