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Construction Begins on Scotland’s Sutherland Spaceport

By Mark Holmes | May 5, 2023

A rendering of an Orbex Prime launch from Sutherland Spaceport. Photo: Orbex

Scotland has reached a key milestone with construction beginning on the Sutherland Spaceport, formerly known as Space Hub Sutherland. It will be the first vertical launch spaceport to be built on the U.K. mainland. Located on the North coast of Scotland, the spaceport will be the home spaceport of Forres-based rocket and launch services company, Orbex, which plans to use the site to launch up to 12 orbital rockets per year. Orbex announced May 5 that construction of the spaceport has begun.

The commercial spaceport is expected to support around 250 new employment opportunities in the Highlands and Islands over the coming years, including 40 jobs in Sutherland and Caithness. Economic impact assessments commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) conclude that the presence of the spaceport has the potential to generate almost 1 billion pounds ($1.28 billion) in gross value added for the Highlands and Islands economy over the next 30 years.

In addiition, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will contribute 3 million pounds ($3.78 million) to support the development of Sutherland Spaceport, completing a public investment package that also includes just over 9 million pounds ($11.32 million) from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish government and 2.55 million pounds ($3.21 million) that the UK Space Agency announced in 2018. The NDA chose to support Sutherland Spaceport following the decommissioning of the nearby Dounreay nuclear power station, as part of its remit to retire the UK’s oldest nuclear sites while supporting affected communities and the environment.

Orbex already has signed launch contracts with seven customers. The company also recently concluded its Series C funding round, netting the company an additional 40.4 million pounds ($50.8 million). Orbex attracted new investors and brought along many of its existing investors into the new round of funding. The additional funding allows the company to maintain its long-term focus beyond the first launch.

“Sutherland represents a new breed of spaceport, for a new breed of rocket. This is 21st century, agile spaceflight with sustainability at its core. With the construction of Sutherland Spaceport underway, this is an important piece of the puzzle that will make the U.K. a modern space nation. Just as importantly, we’re hopefully also setting the tone for how business can be a force for good, creating jobs and opportunities while minimizing the impact upon the environment,” Kristian von Bengtson, chief development officer and interim CEO of Orbex, said in a statement.