Study to weigh up satellite launch site options
THE potential role of a north Sutherland community as a site for launching satellites into orbit has been generating a lot of interest in the area.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has commissioned a study to examine the pros and cons of establishing a vertical launch facility for commercial satellites at The Moine, part of the Melness crofting estate, near Tongue.
The development agency, who unveiled the plans on Friday, has appointed consultants Upper Quartile to carry out the study. Their findings will help establish whether The Moine meets a range of technical criteria which potential satellite launch operators would require.
The study will examine the likely numbers of jobs and other economic benefits, as well as assessing its potential environmental impact, the projected scale of investment, and the public consultation and statutory planning processes.
HIE officials in Caithness and Sutherland have already held informal discussions with local crofters and other residents.
The study is expected to be ready in the summer. If it determines the site is a suitable location, the prospect of the first launch would still lie far into the future.
Other tests would have to be made and major private investment would be essential, as well as international marketing to attract one or more operators to base themselves at the facility.
Thurso-based Roy Kirk, Caithness and Sutherland area manager for HIE, said: “The satellite launch market is growing and we believe there will be an opportunity in the coming years for one location in Europe to establish a vertical launch centre.
“The Moine appears to meet many, if not all, of the requirements to become that location and we’ve commissioned this study to gather and weigh up the evidence.
“It’s important to bear in mind that HIE is an agency with responsibility for both community and economic development, and we have a strong track record of supporting groups and projects which deliver environmental benefits as well as economic growth.”