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Bid for land court consent as Sutherland spaceport takes another step forward


By Alan Hendry

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Small commercial satellites and launch vehicles could be taking off from Sutherland within the next few years. Picture: NORR / HIE
Small commercial satellites and launch vehicles could be taking off from Sutherland within the next few years. Picture: NORR / HIE

THE Sutherland spaceport project has taken another step forward with a request for Scottish Land Court approval.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is applying for consent to build, operate and, ultimately, decommission Space Hub Sutherland on a crofting estate on the A’Mhoine peninsula.

The plans to establish a vertical launch site for satellites on the north coast have already received planning approval from Highland Council, with up to 12 launches a year permitted.

Scottish Land Court consent is required as the project would be developed on crofting land, currently classed as common grazing.

The 2464-acre site is owned by Melness Crofters Estate, which has granted HIE a lease option.

Infrastructure planned for the spaceport includes a control centre, assembly facilities, offices, roadway, launch pad and antennas.

Any crofter with livestock on the common grazing would be asked to move their animals for periods around launch days. Removal would be arranged by the common grazings committee, which would receive compensation from the developer.

The success of this project would mean so much for us all – it is potentially a win-win.

HIE says Space Hub Sutherland will be a small-scale, commercial spaceport, launching micro-satellites into orbit. The development agency expects satellites launched from Sutherland to be used for telecommunications and Earth observation, including weather mapping and gathering data to monitor climate change.

Vertical launch is recognised as a key element of the UK’s growing space capability and HIE says the Sutherland project has the potential to support up to 250 high-quality jobs in the Highlands and Islands, including more than 40 at the launch site itself.

Construction is scheduled to begin next year, with a view to the first launch potentially taking place before the end of 2022.

Jamie Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, said: "The application to the Scottish Land Court is a significant development which I warmly welcome.

"The success of this project would mean so much for us all – high-quality local employment, a really significant boost to the local economy, and of course people will travel many miles to see each launch. It is potentially a win-win – something that will equally benefit the local area and the wider UK."

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