A remote peat bog owned by Scottish farmers is set to become the first ‘traditional’ rocket launch pad on the British mainland.
The site, on the A’ Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland, northwest Scotland, will host up to 12 launches a year, with rockets lifted vertically from the ground.
The location is seen as ideal for launching satellites into orbit that will take them over the North and South Pole. The first launch could be as early as next year.
The spaceport will strengthen the launch capabilities of the UK satellite industry.
So far, manufacturers have had to ship their spacecraft abroad for launch.
But the countdown to the first “horizontal” launch at Cornwall Spaceport later this month is underway, with a jumbo jet taking off from Newquay Airport with a rocket under its wing. The rocket will be released and launched over the Atlantic Ocean.
Spacehub Sutherland will offer another launch option. Scottish rocket manufacturer Orbex will build and operate the spaceport, investing £20m under a 50-year lease.
The site is expected to create around 40 jobs, a notable boost for an area with poor economic prospects for young people.
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Dorothy Pritchard, chairman of Melness Crofters’ Estate, which represents the community, said: “We’ve seen a significant population decline in the area over the past few years and our community is lacking its lifeblood – young people.
“It’s our way of bringing new life back to our region — maybe in a less obvious way.
“We’re excited that this will have a positive impact on our community for years to come.”
Orbex is building what it says is the world’s greenest space rocket, complete with 3D-printed engines, reusable structures and clean-burning propane fuel derived from plant waste.
Chris Larmour, the company’s chief executive, said: “Orbex is the first European launcher company to simultaneously manage a dedicated spaceport.
“This is an important competitive advantage for the company and will make it very easy for us to work with customers as we scale our business.”