Scotland’s New Spaceport: Under Construction

Space: Spaceport in Scotland is now being built

Construction has officially started on the first spaceport to be built on British soil. The rocket launch facility, located near Tongue on the north coast of Scotland, will cost £14.6 million ($16.7 million) to build and will be CO₂-neutral both during operation and construction, according to Scottish rocket firm Orbex. It aims to send up to a dozen orbital rockets into space to deliver satellites into low earth orbit. The company also claims that its reusable, biopropane-powered Orbex Prime rocket emits 96% less CO₂ than other rockets of a similar size.

The build will take place on a 40,000 m² site subleased from business development agency HIE, under a 50-year agreement. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will contribute £3 million to offset the decommissioning of the nearby Dounreay nuclear power plant. Orbex claims that the spaceport will create 250 new jobs, and it anticipates launching its first rocket by the end of 2023.

The construction of the spaceport will be overseen by US plant construction company Jacobs Engineering. Jacobs is an investor in Orbex and has collaborated on space projects with NASA at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The company will support the operation of the Sutherland Spaceport and will manage its construction.

Orbex’s two-stage Orbex Prime rocket measures 19 meters in length and is powered by seven engines. Its developers state that it can carry small satellites of up to 180kg to an altitude of 80 km. The rocket has never launched, but Orbex has released details of various tests conducted in preparation for the first launch.

As well as using biopropane, the firm will also recycle peat excavated from the site to fill in depleted resources elsewhere, offering an example of its sustainability efforts.

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