Plans unveiled for spaceport on North Uist
Plans have been announced for the creation of a vertical-launch commercial spaceport on the north-west coast North Uist.
The Spaceport 1 consortium is led by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), which has agreed to invest about £1m to buy the land where the launch facility will be constructed.
Rockets will be launched vertically, offering low-cost and efficient access to sun synchronous and polar orbits.
The consortium consists of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), QinetiQ, and Commercial Space Technologies (CST), a UK-based consultancy and satellite launch broker with 35 years’ experience.
The inclusion in the project team includes QinetiQ, which operates the nearby MOD Hebrides Range, will give access to proven launch vehicle technology, existing systems and access to the largest area of segregated airspace in Europe.
Roddie Mackay, leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “This is a critical strategic investment for the Comhairle and the North Uist community. The economic benefits that would flow from this project are immense and we are delighted to offer it our full backing."
When it comes to fruition, the proposal is expected to create between 50 and 70 jobs and a range of wider and longer-term economic benefits.
Rachel MacKenzie, area manager for HIE Innse Gall, said: “Scotland’s space sector is young, but has strong potential and an appetite for significant growth. There is already international interest in opportunities here for design, manufacturing and supply chain businesses, and launch operations. HIE is delighted to be working with our partners in the Spaceport 1 consortium to develop these ambitious plans for the Outer Hebrides.”
Alan Webb, director at CST, added: “CST is delighted to be part of the Spaceport1 journey. We have been following the story of spaceports in the UK for over 10 years and we identified early on that North Uist has the necessary infrastructure, geographical situation and local skills to give its plans for vertical launch significant credibility. When combined with the unending drive from those involved, CST has every confidence that Spaceport1 will be a commercial success and boost to local and national interests.”
Discussions have already begun about proposed test launches from the site later this year. Further community consultation events on the planned activities and the Spaceport1 project will take place over the summer.