Remote Scottish peat bog to become UK mainland’s first ‘traditional’ rocket launch pad | Science and technology news


A remote peat bog owned by Scottish small farmers is set to become the first ‘traditional’ rocket launch pad in mainland Britain.

The site on the A’ Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland, north-west Scotland, will see up to 12 launches per year, with rockets taking off vertically from the ground.

The location is considered ideal for launching satellites into an orbit that will take them over the North and South Poles. The first launch could take place as early as next year.

The spaceport will strengthen launch capacity for the UK satellite industry.

Previously, manufacturers had to ship their spacecraft abroad for launch.

But the countdown is on for the first “horizontal” launch at Spaceport Cornwall later this month, with a jumbo jet taking off from Newquay Airport carrying a rocket under its wings. The rocket is released and launched over the Atlantic.

Spacehub Sutherland will offer another launch option. Scottish rocket maker Orbex will build and operate the spaceport, investing £20million in the construction under a 50-year lease.

Around 40 jobs are to be created on the site, a significant boost in an area with poor economic prospects for young people.

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Dorothy Pritchard, Chairwoman of Melness Crofters’ Estate, which represents the community, said: “We have seen massive population decline in the area in recent years and our community is being starved of its lifeblood, young people.

“This is our way – perhaps a less than obvious way – of bringing new life to our area.

“We are excited about the positive impact this will have on our community for years to come.”

Night at Orbex Prime at the Kinloss test stand.  Image: Orbex
Orbex Prime at the Kinloss test stand. Image: Orbex

Orbex is building what it says is the world’s greenest space rocket, using a 3D-printed engine, a reusable structure and clean-burning propane gas made from plant-based waste.

Chris Larmour, CEO of the company, said: “Orbex is the first European launch vehicle company to also operate its own spaceport.

“This is a key competitive advantage for the company that will make it really easy for us to work with customers as we expand our business.”

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