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The Highlands and Islands is fast becoming a hub of space sector activity in Scotland and looks set to continue to play a vital role in the years to come.

Orbex space shuttle display with simulated purple sky behind

The importance of the space sector for our region

Scotland’s growing space industry has the potential to help place the UK at the forefront of the worldwide launch market for small commercial satellites. 

Several locations in our region are ideally suited as sites for vertical launch. Developments are planned or underway at Unst in Shetland, Melness in Sutherland and North Uist in the Western Isles. At the same time, horizontal launches are proposed for Machrihanish in Argyll, and Prestwick in Ayrshire. 

Launch capacity supports opportunities for manufacturers of satellites and launch vehicles, the wider supply chain, academic and commercial research and suppliers of goods and services. Scotland already produces more small satellites than any other country in Europe and is home to two companies that design and manufacture launch vehicles – Orbex in Forres and Skyrora in Edinburgh. 

Much of the market growth has been driven by the vast number of products and applications now in daily use – from smartphones and health monitors to GPS devices – that rely on satellite data and technology.

Download the Space Scotland proposition

Our region is ideally placed to host launch services at a number of locations that offer good access to orbit. Launch capacity supports opportunities for manufacturers of satellites and launch vehicles, as well as the wider supply chain.
Martin Johnson, Director of strategy and regional economy, HIE
Rocket simulation taking off at space hub Sutherland

Economic potential of the Scottish space industry

Scotland’s growing space industry has the potential to help put the UK at the forefront of the worldwide launch market for small commercial satellites over the next few years

A detailed market analysis of the UK space launch opportunity was commissioned by HIE and carried out by RSM UK and SpaceTec Partners, an independent management consulting firm specialising in the international space sector.

Published on 22 March 2021, the study concludes that the UK is well-positioned to access a growing global market that will send almost 4,000 small satellites (3,814) into low Earth orbit through 970 launches between 2020 and 2031.

Download the study

Scotland has a great opportunity to realise its potential to become Europe’s leading commercial space nation and capture a slice of the £4bn global market by 2030.
Ivan McKee, minister for business, trade, tourism and enterprise, Scottish Government

View our flyover video showing how the spaceport will look.


HIE began developing plans to launch satellites into low-Earth orbit from Sutherland in 2018 and gained planning permission for up to 12 launches a year in 2020. Forres-based launch company Orbex is taking forward plans to build and operate the spaceport.

View our flyover video of the proposed launch site


HIE's planning application for a satellite launch site on the A' Mhoine peninsula was approved in August 2020.

View planning application documents

Orbex Prime 1 Low Res


Founded in 2015, Orbex is an orbital launch services company, serving the needs of the small satellite industry. A loan of up to £675,000 and grant of up to £825,000 from HIE are part of a broad package of support and advice that helped Orbex locate its state-of-the-art factory in Forres.

In November 2022, HIE signed a lease with Melness Crofters Estate and a 50-year sub-lease with Orbex. On the back of this agreement and the company's success in raising substantial investment from the Scottish National Investment Bank and others, Orbex then confirmed its intention to construct and operate Sutherland Spaceport

Find out more about Orbex

Space Control Computer 1000X666

SaxaVord Spaceport

SaxaVord Spaceport is developing a launch site and ground station at Lamba Ness in Unst, Shetland. The company has secured planning permission for its launch site, which is designed for small rockets delivering payloads into low Earth orbit. 

Find out more about SaxaVord Spaceport

Spaceport 1

Spaceport 1 is a proposal to build a commercial vertical rocket launching site at Scolpaig in North Uist.

Find out more about Spaceport 1


UK Space Agency

UK Space Agency (UKSA) is an executive agency, sponsored by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. UKSA inspires and leads the UK in space to benefit our planet and its people.

Find out more about UKSA


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