Spaceport proposes smaller rocket launch site to protect local habitats

Orbex hopes to launchs its Prime rocket from the Sutherland facility (Orbex/PA)
Orbex hopes to launchs its Prime rocket from the Sutherland facility (Orbex/PA)

The company building a spaceport on the northern coast of the Scottish mainland has proposed changes to its plans for the site, with a smaller footprint and lower buildings suggested.

Sutherland Spaceport is being built on the A’Mhoine peninsula on a site leased to the UK company Orbex, which intends to use it for satellite launches.

Construction on the site began in May this year, with the company saying at that point it hoped to host 12 launches a year.

Orbex is now consulting with the local community on proposed changes, including a smaller launch pad, to better protect the surrounding environment.

There will also be smaller access roads, and the size of the integration facility, where rockets are assembled before launch, is to be reduced.

The company said: “These changes will make the building footprint smaller, leading to a reduction in peat disturbance and a lower impact on the groundwater ecosystem.

“The visual impact of the site will also be reduced, and there will be less disturbance to local watercourse crossings, with mammal migration paths widened to better preserve the natural environment.

“The proposed changes should also result in a shorter construction period and fewer vehicle movements.”

Orbex said Sutherland will be the first carbon-neutral spaceport in the world, with plans to launch its 19-metre tall Prime rocket there.

Public bodies have invested £14.6 million in the Sutherland Spaceport.

A rival spaceport is under construction at SaxaVord on Unst, the very northern tip of the Shetland Isles.

A German company, Rocket Factory Augsburg, aims to launch from there in 2024.