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Public invited to share views on satellite launch site proposals

Published: 04/09/2019

Plans to create a spaceport that will launch communications satellites into orbit from the Moine peninsula in Sutherland are set to be unveiled for discussion at public meetings over the next two months.

Development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which is backing the £17.3m project to design and build Space Hub Sutherland, has today (Wednesday 4 September) lodged a proposal of application notice with the Highland Council.

The notice effectively triggers the start of a process that will lead to a formal application for planning consent being submitted to the local authority at the end of December. 

As part of pre-planning consultation, HIE is organising public events at Melness Community Centre on Wednesday 2 October and Monday 25 November, each running from 3.30pm to 8.00pm.  These are designed to enable anyone with an interest in the project to find out more, question the design team and developers, and comment on the plans before they are finalised. 

Additional events will be held between these dates, and details posted online at where copies of the plans will also be published.

Roy Kirk, HIE’s Space Hub Sutherland project director, said he hoped many local people would take up the opportunity to find out more and offer valuable feedback on the proposals.

“This is a hugely ambitious project, not only for Sutherland but for the whole of the UK,” said Mr Kirk. 

“The British space sector is in a phase of expansion at present and the Highlands and Islands have the natural assets, skills base and supply chain expertise to capitalise on the huge opportunity this presents.

“Space Hub Sutherland is now approaching a very exciting stage where we will shortly be able to start presenting the detail of our plans to stakeholders, including people who live in the vicinity of the launch site. 

“We’ve been holding informal drop-in sessions at different locations for a few months now and delivering presentations to community groups and business organisations, which have been well-received.  It’s really important for local people to have a chance to find out what the spaceport will mean for the area, and that we listen to their views to help shape our planning application.”

HIE has approved £9.8m to develop Space Hub Sutherland, and the UK Space Agency has awarded £2.5m.  A further £5m is being sought from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

UKSA has also awarded grants to two companies that plan to launch satellites from Sutherland – Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Orbex, which has already established a manufacturing facility in the Moray town of Forres.

An economic impact assessment commissioned by HIE in 2018 concluded that the project could generate around 400 jobs across the Highlands and Islands, including 40 or so skilled positions at the space hub itself.

In addition to a launch pad complex, the spaceport will include an operations and control centre, launch towers, an assembly building, an antenna farm, access roads, car parking and security fencing.

Melness Crofters Estate, which owns the land on which the launch site will be located, signed a lease option agreement with HIE that came into effect on 1 August 2019. 

HIE expects up to 10 launches a year from Sutherland, with the first taking place in the early 2020s.

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