Exciting plans are taking shape to launch satellites into space from the Scottish Highlands.
In July 2018, the UK Space Agency (UKSA) announced that it was backing ambitious proposals by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to develop a vertical launch site at The Moine, Sutherland.
The Board of HIE has approved £17.3m to support the project, now called Space Hub Sutherland. This includes the UKSA’s £2.5m and £9.8m from HIE itself. The remaining £5m is being sought from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
Conditions attached to the Board’s approval include the need to identify and deliver local community benefits.
The launch site is expected to create around 40 highly skilled jobs in Sutherland. At a regional level, HIE estimates this figure will multiply to 400 jobs by 2023, with launch activities in Sutherland making the site the hub of a significant new space sector.
Memoranda of understanding have been signed with two launch operators, Lockheed Martin and Orbex, which were also awarded UKSA funding. It is anticipated that up to six launches will be carried out annually, with the first taking place in the early 2020s.
During 2019, HIE staff are busy developing detailed plans to make this vision a reality.
As well as focusing on delivering economic benefits, including jobs, training and supply chain opportunities, it will be vital to gather robust evidence that will ensure environmental and community impacts are fully assessed.
The project will have to meet strict regulations, and will be subject to a rigorous planning process, including public consultation.
HIE itself will be sharing information widely as its plans develop, both online and through a programme of open meetings and other events. The aim is to give local people and those involved in taking the project forward the chance to share information, review progress and discuss all aspects.