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First ever UK spaceport gets planning permission

Professional Engineering

How the Space Hub in Sutherland, Scotland, could look (Credit: NORR Architects HIE)
How the Space Hub in Sutherland, Scotland, could look (Credit: NORR Architects HIE)

The UK’s first ever spaceport has received planning permission, bringing orbital spaceflight from British soil a step closer.

The Highland Council gave the go-ahead for the Space Hub Sutherland spaceport today (26 June). The facility will be built in Melness, on the northern coast of Scotland.

The project aims to capitalise on the UK’s growing space sector, which traditionally specialises in satellites – launched from other countries. Now, British spacecraft will have a homegrown launch option.

Private launch company Orbex confirmed it has already signed six launch contracts today, with its Orbex Prime rocket set to be the first vertical launch vehicle to fly from the Space Hub.

“The Highland Council’s approval of the spaceport is a landmark in the history of spaceflight in Europe and will place the community around Tongue, Melness and Skerray, the Highlands Region, Scotland and the United Kingdom at the very heart of the European space launch industry,” said Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex.

“We would like to congratulate Highlands and Islands Enterprise on their leadership of this project and thank numerous local people for their active engagement and support throughout the meticulous planning process. We look forward to becoming an integral part of the local community as we establish our own permanent team at the Space Hub.”

Orbex aims to fly the Prime using renewable biofuels, to minimise the carbon footprint of launches. The craft is intended to be recoverable and reusable, normally leaving no debris in the ocean or in orbit around the Earth.

In January, the European Space Agency awarded Orbex a contract under its Future Launchers Preparatory Programme, covering the further development of Reflight, a system to allow recovery and reuse of stage one boosters.

“The go-ahead for the Space Hub Sutherland, combined with the steady progress of the Orbex Prime launch vehicle, are important steps towards the first truly orbital space flight from the UK. The last piece of the jigsaw puzzle is the regulatory framework that will govern launches, and we look forward to those regulations being laid before parliament in the coming weeks,” said Larmour.

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