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Highland Council gives £17.9m spaceport planning approval

The first orbital space flight from UK soil is a step closer after the first spaceport – Space Hub Sutherland – was given planning approval by the Highland Council.   

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) plans to build the £17.9 million satellite launch site on peatland on the Moine Peninsula near Tongue in the Scottish Highlands. 

Orbex, the UK-based space launch company, has confirmed that its rocket will be the first vertical launch vehicle to fly into orbit from the new space hub.

There were more than 400 objections to the plans from people living in the area, with many focusing on the environmental risk to the peatland it will sit on.

A HIE spokesperson said they had carried out surveys to ensure they mitigate any potential impacts from launches to the peat and will ensure any damage is repaired. 

Notional image of the UK’s first commercial spaceport at the Sutherland Site in Melness, Scotland, which will conduct the UK’s first vertical, orbital rocket launch in the early 2020s

Orbex, the UK-based space launch company, has confirmed that its rocket will be the first vertical launch vehicle to fly into orbit from the new space hub

Orbex, the UK-based space launch company, has confirmed that its rocket will be the first vertical launch vehicle to fly into orbit from the new space hub

There were a number of conditions imposed on the space launch hub including limiting launches to 12 per year.

They haven’t announced a specific date for the first launch but it is hoped this will happen in the next few years, according to HIE. 

It is expected the space hub will cost at least £17.3 million with money coming from HIE, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the UK Space Agency. 

Satellites launched from the site will be used for Earth observation, including gathering data to monitor and address the effects of climate change.

A HIE spokesperson said they had carried out surveys to ensure they mitigate any potential impacts from launches to the peat and will ensure any damage is repaired.

A HIE spokesperson said they had carried out surveys to ensure they mitigate any potential impacts from launches to the peat and will ensure any damage is repaired.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) plans to build the satellite launch site on peatland on the Moine Peninsula near Tongue in the Scottish highlands

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) plans to build the satellite launch site on peatland on the Moine Peninsula near Tongue in the Scottish highlands

Developers HIE say they expect the new site to create hundreds of new jobs in the local area for people working to support the new space launch industry.  

Orbex are one of a number of companies hoping to launch from the UK and they said they had already signed six launch contracts with various firms.

‘The Highland Council’s approval of the spaceport is a landmark in the history of spaceflight in Europe,’ said Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex.

He said it would place the community around the port, Scotland and the United Kingdom at the very heart of the European space launch industry.

‘We look forward to becoming an integral part of the local community as we establish our own permanent team at the Space Hub.’

It comes as the UK signed an agreement with the US government that would allow American rocket manufacturers and launch firms such as SpaceX, Virgin Orbit and others to bring their vehicles to the UK and launch from here.

Government officials hope to have the first launches from British soil within the decade and some companies like Skyrora are planning to launch as early as 2021. 

The go-ahead for Space Hub Sutherland coincides with a period of intensive work within Orbex, who are one of the UK leaders in space launch vehicles. 

The firms coaxial fuel tank is being subjected to ongoing cryogenic testing, and the company recently signed a lease to install a new testing facility on the former RAF base at Kinloss, close to the company’s headquarters in Forres.  

Conceived and developed as an environmentally sustainable launch system, Orbex Prime is expected to be the first to launch from the new port.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) plans to build the £17.9 million satellite launch site on peatland on the Moine Peninsula near Tongue in the Scottish Highlands

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) plans to build the £17.9 million satellite launch site on peatland on the Moine Peninsula near Tongue in the Scottish Highlands

It comes as the UK signed an agreement with the US government that would allow American rocket manufacturers and launch firms such as SpaceX, Virgin Orbit and others to bring their vehicles to the UK and launch from here

It comes as the UK signed an agreement with the US government that would allow American rocket manufacturers and launch firms such as SpaceX, Virgin Orbit and others to bring their vehicles to the UK and launch from here

Government officials hope to have the first launches from British soil within the decade and some companies like Skyrora are planning to launch from the UK early as 2021

Government officials hope to have the first launches from British soil within the decade and some companies like Skyrora are planning to launch from the UK early as 2021

It makes use of renewable biofuels to deliver an industry-leading ultra-low CO2 footprint, according to the company.  

The Orbex vehicle is intended to be recoverable and re-usable, normally leaving no debris in the ocean or in orbit around the Earth.  

BRITAIN’S FIRST SPACEPORT WILL SUPPORT 12 ORBITAL LAUNCHES PER YEAR

The UK Space Agency has selected Sutherland, on Scotland’s north coast, as the site for Britain’s first spaceport.

The site is being developed by US aerospace and defence behemoth Lockheed Martin.  

It will launch satellites and rockets into space as early as 2021.

The port will boost Scotland’s already burgeoning satellite industry.

Outside of the US, Scotland produces more satellites than any country.

It is hoped the UK will launch an estimated 2,000 satellites by 2030. 

The Sutherland project is under pressure from similar bids in Scandinavia.

The first Northern European site to offer commercial launches is set to hold a stake in the global space industry worth billions.

‘The go-ahead for the Space Hub Sutherland, combined with the steady progress of the Orbex Prime launch vehicle, are important steps towards the first truly orbital space flight from the UK,’ said Larmour.

‘The last piece of the jigsaw puzzle is the regulatory framework that will govern launches, and we look forward to those regulations being laid before Parliament in the coming weeks.’ 

Lockheed Martin, the US aerospace giant, has also expressed interest in launching from the Scottish spaceport at Sutherland. 

If this all goes to plan there could be a number of spaceports across the UK including Shetland, Western Isles, Glasgow, Campbeltown and Snowdonia. 

Each location could have its own dedicated launch vehicle partner – in the case of Sutherland that partner is Orbex, but others could launch from there. 

David Oxley, director of business growth with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, welcomed today’s planning committee’s decision.

‘Gaining planning approval from the council is a huge step forward for Space Hub Sutherland,’ he said.

‘A vertical launch spaceport is a key piece of the national jigsaw, along with the design and manufacture of satellites and launch vehicles, that will ensure Scotland can derive maximum economic benefits from this growing and exciting sector.’ 

‘Part of our ambition is to create the world’s most low-carbon space centre and the conditions applied to the planning approval will help us make that a reality,’ he said. 

‘When all these factors are put together, that makes today’s decision a good result not just for the economy, but for the environment as well.’

A UK government spokesperson said this was a significant milestone for the space port and another step towards putting the UK on the map as a launch location. 

‘Scotland is already a global hub for satellite manufacturing and the addition of commercial launch from the Highlands will bring new jobs and economic growth to local communities,’ the spokesperson said. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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