Remote Highland peninsula earmarked for satellite launchpad

Rocket launches would be a familiar sight on the Sutherland coast. Picture: AP
Rocket launches would be a familiar sight on the Sutherland coast. Picture: AP
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A remote Highland peninsula could be the site of Britain’s first launchpad for future space missions under new plans submitted to the UK’s space agency.

A consortium, which includes US aerospace firm Lockheed Martin, believe that the A’Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland would be the ideal location in Britain from which satellites could be launched into orbit.

A detailed proposal for the facility - located between Dounreay and Cape Wrath - has been submitted to the UK Space Agency (UKSA) which has met with Highland council and Highlands and Islands Entreprise (HIE) to discuss the plans.

The Scottish base - which could be operational by 2020 - would be the first to launch a rocket into space from UK soil.

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The UKSA is understood to give its backing to the A’Mhoine proposals, which could generate more than £1bn over a decade.

The agency has set targets to claim 10 per cent of the global space market, which is expected to be worth over £400 billion by 2030.

Other sites in Scotland have been considered for space traffic, including space tourism hubs at Prestwick in Ayrshire and Campbeltown in Argyll.

Experts believe however that launching satellites for the military, government or private industry may be the quickest and most cost-effective way of advancing the UK’s space ambitions.

Paul Davey, of the Lockheed Martin UK space programme, told the Sunday Times: “We have submitted a proposal for grant funding into the UKSA satellite launch programme, the outcome of which will be known this summer.

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“This follows more than two years of dialogue with the relevant Scottish agencies.”

The A’Mhoine facility could see up to eight rocket launches a year, capable of carrying as many as 12 small cube satellites into orbit around the Earth.

The plans are expected to be attract opposition as access roads to the launchpad would likely have to be built across the area’s famed wilderness which has been designated as a national scenic area.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: Scotland has a proud history in the design and building of satellites and we will consider all opportunities to expand this further.”