Sutherland Spaceport Will Have Only One Launch Pad Instead of Two

21st Feb 2021
Sutherland Spaceport Will Have Only One Launch Pad Instead of Two

In July 2018, the UKSA gave Scottish company, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the green light for Sutherland spaceport construction. This vertical launch facility should be built on the A’ Mhòine Peninsula.

Sutherland launch pad will be profitable and safe 

The location for this UK spaceport was not chosen by chance. It is favorable because the proximity of a clean northern coast allows one to easily launch rockets into polar and solar-synchronous orbits on the shortest trajectory. The second factor is the region’s low population density, which means that the spaceport will be located far from residential areas. The combination of these factors meets two important conditions: launches will be cost-effective and relatively safe.  

Sutherland spaceport has not chosen its main launch provider yet. Initially, Danish launch provider Orbex and the American giant Lockheed Martin wanted to launch their rockets from Space Hub Sutherland. This would require two Sutherland launch pads because Orbex’s Prime rocket uses an innovative type of biopropane fuel, which calls for tech-specific pre-launch preparation.

There will be only one rocket launch pad in Sutherland

In October 2020, UKSA announced that the final planning application would include only one rocket launch pad in Sutherland. The American company, Lockheed Martin, decided in favor of the Shetland Space Centre, another planned British spaceport at Unst. The reason for this move is that Shetland has more launch pads (three) and fewer launch restrictions, which reduces launch schedule delay risks for Lockheed Martin. So, Space Hub Sutherland will only accommodate Orbex Prime launches.

Sutherland Spaceport Infrastructure 

According to the planning application, the Sutherland spaceport will occupy about 13 acres of land and will be divided into three enclosed segments within a total pasture heathland of 2,464 acres (997 hectares). A few days before the planned launch, farmers will have to remove their livestock from the exclusion zone. Any associated losses will be compensated for.

Sutherland Spaceport will include:

  • Flight control centre with panoramic windows
  • Launch Integration Complex (LSIF), which includes payload and launcher assembly facility, a fleet of satellite dishes, and telemetry equipment;
  • Rocket launch pad with fuel depots

The project will create over 300 jobs; spaceport staff will have 40 job openings, and another 250 people will be employed at related infrastructure facilities.

The first small satellite launches are expected in late 2022. We already know that the Orbex Prime rocket, scheduled for lift-off from Sutherland spaceport, will have up to 180 kg payload capacity and a reusable first stage. 

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