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August 4th, 2019

Lease Option Agreed Upon for Space Hub Sutherland in Scotland

The owners of land earmarked for the Scottish-based Space Hub Sutherland development on the Moine Peninsula have agreed to a lease option with developer, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Representatives of Melness Crofters Estate (MCE) and HIE signed the agreement on July 31 and this accord secures the option for HIE to lease the land once planning consent for the project has been granted. HIE is leading the development, with a £2.5 million grant from the UK Space Agency (UKSA), which is also funding two launch companies that plan to use the facility.

Artistic rendition of Space Hub Sutherland.

Design work and scoping for environmental impact studies are well underway. This will form part of the planning application being prepared to obtain consent in time for construction to start in 2020.

Roy Kirk, HIE’s Space Hub Sutherland project director, said that Space Hub Sutherland development is expected to generate many social and economic benefits for different parts of the region. The organization has maintained constructive dialogue with the Melness Crofters Estate throughout the process and are very grateful to them for their input and co-operation and welcome this key stage in the project.

Dorothy Pritchard, MCE chair said all look forward to continuing these links with HIE and to working with the launch companies and site operator to maximize job opportunities and community benefits for this area.  There is a long way to go and the next step is to go through to the planning stage. Like everyone else, MCE wishes to make certain the environmental and safety aspects of the proposed development are thoroughly examined and fully addressed as part of the process.

Claire Barcham, Commercial Space Director, UKSA, added that the UK government’s Spaceflight Program aims to help establish commercial launch from the UK and help ensure the agency plays a leading role in the New Space Age. The agreement of the Spaceport Sutherland lease hold option is an important milestone.

Chris Larmour, the CEO of Orbex, a UK-based spaceflight company selected to launch from the spaceport, noted this a very positive step forward.  Orbex’s interactions with the local community in Tongue, Talmine and Melness have been overwhelmingly positive and the company is pleased that this strong, long term agreement is now in place. Orbex looks forward to working closely with the local community in the years to come and the expectation is to have many locals working directly on the space launch program as colleagues, ultimately helping the UK’s National Space Program to begin launching satellites into space. That launch capability will be a first in continental Europe and will offer a host of benefits, enabling new markets and enlarging the UK’s share of the global space economy.

(In July of this year, Orbex secured £30 million ($39.6 million) in public and private funding for the development of orbital space launch systems. Orbex will launch orbital vehicles from the newly-announced UK Vertical Launch spaceport in Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands as part of the main consortium.)

In March of this year HIE appointed architectural firm, NORR Consultants, to lead on producing designs for the space hub. The agency is also working to secure a commercial operator for the facility.

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