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Orbex begins construction of Sutherland Spaceport

Sutherland Spaceport construction
Image credit: Orbex

Rocket launch company Orbex has begun construction of the first vertical spaceport on UK mainland soil in Sutherland, Scotland.

Once complete, Orbex aims to launch up to 12 commercial rockets a year from the site, carrying payloads of small satellites.

The Scottish space site is predicted to produce 250 jobs and is aiming to be carbon neutral.

Richard Lochhead, minister for small business, innovation and trade, said: “It is an incredibly exciting time for the space sector, with the first orbital launch from UK soil expected to take place in Scotland later this year.”

Scotland is a prime location to launch rockets due to its access to sun-synchronous orbits without flying over inhabited land. The Shetland Islands is home to SaxaVord Spaceport, another vertical launch site.

Ian Annett, Deputy CEO at the UK Space Agency, said: “Not only will Sutherland Spaceport unlock 250 new job opportunities and boost the Highlands and Islands economy, but its carbon-neutral ambition underlines the UK’s position as a world leader in sustainable space activities.”

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority revealed today that it is contributing a further £3m towards the construction of Sutherland Spaceport. The project is estimated to bring in nearly £1bn over the next 30 years in gross value added to the Highlands and Islands economy, according to Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Headquartered in Forres, Scotland, Orbex plans to launch biofuel-powered reusable rockets from the spaceport.

It signed a lease for the site in November and raised a £40m Series C in October.

Other UK spaceports include Spaceport Cornwall, which earlier this year hosted the first orbital satellite launch from the UK. It ultimately ended in failure and led to Virgin Orbit filing for bankruptcy.