Sutherland Spaceport Construction Begins

8th May 2023
Sutherland Spaceport Construction Begins

Orbex Space, a UK and Denmark-based space launch company announced the start of construction at the Sutherland Spaceport in Scotland. The announcement marks the realisation of the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport on the mainland. The project is a joint venture between Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the UK Space Agency, with funding from both the Scottish and UK governments.

Sutherland Spaceport construction groundbreaking ceremony

According to a 5th May update on the Orbex website, the start of construction at Sutherland Spaceport was celebrated at a groundbreaking ceremony attended by several officials and stakeholders.

Attendees included Chair of Melness Crofters Estate Dorothy Pritchard, Director of Strategic Projects with Highlands and Islands Enterprise David Oxley, Deputy CEO at the UK Space Agency Ian Annett, and Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade for the Scottish Government Richard Lochhead.

The first carbon-neutral spaceport in the world

The project aims to become the first carbon-neutral spaceport globally, with its construction and operation designed to minimise carbon emissions. 

As a testament to this commitment, the project plans to repurpose peat lifted during the construction to restore large areas of degraded peatland that have suffered over centuries.

Further funding confirmed

The press release also announced that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) will provide a £3 million contribution toward the development of the Sutherland Spaceport, completing the public investment package for the project. 

The NDA’s decision to support the Sutherland Spaceport was made in line with its remit to decommission the UK’s oldest nuclear sites while simultaneously supporting impacted communities and the environment. 

The NDA’s contribution comes after the decommissioning of Dounreay, a nearby nuclear power station, and the funds will help develop the spaceport and aid the growth of the space industry in Scotland.

A huge milestone for the UK space industry

The construction of the Sutherland Spaceport is a significant milestone for the UK’s space industry. 

With the spaceport’s location on the northern coast of Scotland, it will provide ideal conditions for launching satellites into polar and sun-synchronous orbits. This is a critical capability for many earth observation and remote sensing missions.

Not just Cornwall any longer

The Sutherland Spaceport groundbreaking comes as the UK and local government expand satellite operations at the spaceport in Cornwall, which uses a horizontal launch system to send satellites into space. Spaceport Cornwall, which had seen Virgin Orbit as a launch partner, has redoubled its efforts to diversify interactions with launch companies following the ongoing VO collapse.

These two spaceports are part of the UK’s efforts to establish itself as a leading player in the global space industry, with the government’s ambition to capture 10% of the global space market by 2030.

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