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- By Andy Smith
The construction of a £17.3m space hub that will launch satellites into orbit from the north Highlands of Scotland has been given the green light by the local authority.
Development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE)
intends to create Space Hub Sutherland on land owned by Melness Crofters Estate
on the A’ Mhòine peninsula, south of Tongue.
Up to 12 launches of small commercial satellites and launch
vehicles a year will be permitted from the spaceport, which will include a
control centre, 2.5km of road and a launch pad, occupying a total of just over
10 acres of the 740-acre site.
The HIE project includes funding from the UK Space Agency
and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
Planning approval is subject to a set of 34 conditions,
including measures to ensure operations are carried out safely and strict
protection measures are implemented and monitored to protect the natural
Scottish government innovation minister Ivan McKee said: “I very much welcome the decision of the Highland Council to approve the planning application for Space Hub Sutherland, which will support around 250 well-paid jobs in the Highlands and Islands, including 61 in Caithness and Sutherland.
“This is the first of Scotland’s spaceport projects to clear
the planning process and it represents a significant step forward for both the
project and Scotland’s aspiration to offer the full end to end capability for
manufacturing and launching small satellites and analysing their data.
“The space sector has a key role to play in the fight
against global climate change and this milestone has been achieved through the
hard work of the Sutherland team in partnership with the local community,
leading experts and public bodies.”
Graham Turnock, CEO, UK Space Agency said: “Growing our
domestic launch capability will bring new jobs and investments to
communities in all corners of the UK. Space Hub Sutherland is an integral part
of these plans and today’s news strengthens our position as Europe’s leading
destination for small satellite launches.
“The UK government is committed to minimising the
environmental impact of spaceflight activities and is developing a National
Space Strategy which recognises the unique contribution of satellite technology
to our understanding of global issues like climate change.”