Spaceport 1: The rocket launch site you’ve probably never heard of

5th Apr 2024
Spaceport 1: The rocket launch site you’ve probably never heard of

The majority of news coverage on Scotland’s space ambitions has focused on launch sites at Sutherland on the West Coast and Saxa Vord on the Shetland Isles. And yet, Spaceport 1, also in Scotland, has come on leaps and bounds in creating another vertical launch site while being somewhat under the radar.

Spaceport 1 – North Uist’s mysterious launch site

On the island of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides a project named Spaceport 1 is well and truly underway with the local council driving the project.

Despite over 1,000 objections, the project was given planning permission in December 2023. It received very little opposition from local environmental groups despite the site’s proximity to breeding grounds used by many rare species of birds.

There were some initial objections from RSPB, mostly because of the nearby breeding grounds, but they became satisfied when the project leaders announced measures that will minimise any impact on breeding birds.

So, even amidst controversy and strong local opposition, the location not only looks like it’s going full steam ahead, but with full permissions in place it has very little by way of barriers stopping it from becoming a significant part of the UK launch network.

Safety zone planning on the table

Currently, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are in the process of formulating the set of exclusion zones around North Uist that will be necessary on launch days. An airspace exclusion zone as well as sea and especially land areas that could be affected by the blast are all being delineated.  The council has selected QinetiQ to manage the process, according to West Coast Today. Input regarding the aviation exclusion zone is welcome through 24th May, and the documentation can be found on the Civil Avation Authority’s website.

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1 comment

  1. Not quite correct regarding the RSPB. They recommended a planning condition restricting rocket launches at Scolpaig to outside the bird breeding season. This condition was not imposed by the Comhairle planners, and local RSPB members were publicly upset. The fact that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are both the project developer and planning authority remains controversial.

    The CAA process has also brought to light the fact that the (approved) planning application underestimated CO2 emissions by a factor of 50, as it failed to consider the impact of rocket launches on rerouting transatlantic air traffic.

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