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Forres rocket firm Orbex to build and run Sutherland Spaceport

By Lewis McBlane

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A FORRES rocket company has been given a 50 year lease for the UK's first mainland spaceport.

Orbex Prime rocket
Orbex Prime rocket

Orbex will oversee construction of the the 10-acre launch site on the A’ Mhoine peninsula, which will become the firm's home spaceport.

Once up and running, the spaceport could see up to 12 rockets per year carrying satellites into low Earth orbit.

Local businesses and contractors are set to benefit as part of the spaceport’s construction.

Orbex also expects to create up to 40 technical and non-technical FTE jobs to support the operation and maintenance of the site.

The roles will span a number of areas including facilities and operational management, security, general administration and finance, marketing, stakeholder engagement and launch campaign-related roles.

Orbex CEO Chris Larmour said: “We are very grateful for the work that HIE (Highlands and Islands Enterprise) and the Melness Crofters Estate have done, in getting us to the point where we can take the baton and start construction.

"We have collaborated closely with them over the past few years, and we are completely aligned in our vision of delivering a sustainable spaceport that will bring jobs and prosperity to the region.

"Orbex is the first European launcher company to also manage a dedicated spaceport.

"It is an important competitive advantage to the company, which will make it really easy for us to work with customers as we scale up our operations.”

Work on preparing the spaceport will be carried out alongside international engineering firm Jacobs.

Jacobs will collaborate with Orbex to provide spaceport operations support, operations consultancy, and engineering services, drawing on its experience of managing and operating complex, highly regulated sites such as Cape Canaveral in the United States.

Jacobs is NASA's largest services provider, delivering mission-tailored solutions and full lifecycle aerospace capabilities including the Mars Perseverance Rover and the Artemis deep space human exploration program.

Planning permission for the spaceport was granted by the Highland Council in August 2020.

Sutherland Spaceport is intended to become the world’s greenest spaceport, both in terms of its construction and its operation.

A study by the University of Exeter showed that a single launch of Orbex's reusable Prime rocket will produce 96 per cent lower carbon emissions than comparable space launch systems using fossil fuels.

Ivan McKee, Scotland's Business Minister said: “This announcement brings us another step closer to becoming Europe’s leading space nation through the provision of sustainable launch.

“Innovative companies like Orbex are vital to achieving the aims of our National Strategy for Economic Transformation, that strives for Scotland to be a nation of entrepreneurs and innovators with resilient supply chains.”

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