FIA 2018: Sutherland’s spaceport to benefit airports in the Highlands and Islands

The announcement earlier this week that a remote stretch of land in Sutherland has been selected as the UK’s first spaceport has been cause for  celebration throughout the Highlands and Islands.

The UK Space Agency has chosen Sutherland’s A’Mhoine peninsula as the most suitable place from which to launch rockets vertically to put satellites in orbit. As part of the deal, the UK government has agreed to contribute £2.5million to help get the spaceport up and running. The goal is to have rocket launches as early as possible in the 2020s.

This week’s announcement is expected to kick-start an exciting new era for the UK space industry, with horizontal launch spaceports at sites including Cornwall’s Newquay, Campbeltown in Argyll and Prestwick in Ayrshire also helping to drive growth in the UK’s thriving space sector.

Speaking at Farnborough International Airshow on Wednesday 18 July, Stuart Black, director of development and infrastructure, Highlands Council described the Highlands and Island’s aviation sector as being in a strong position. “We are seeing increasing numbers of inbound traffic. Flights to and from cities like Birmingham and Manchester have helped boost the growth of short breaks, but also business travel. Connectivity with Heathrow from Inverness – the gateway to the Highlands and Islands – has also helped increase traffic and Inverness in turn serves as a feeder for the islands.”

Passenger numbers at Inverness continue to grow and are forecast to reach 920,000 in 2018. Major carriers such as easyJet, British Airways and KLM combined with regional airlines flybe and Loganair ensure that both inbound and outbound markets are well catered for. However Black did underline the need to keep regional connectivity at the top of the agenda when it comes to Heathrow’s third runway.

While the new spaceport at Sutherland is expected to boost the local economy with new business opportunities and improved local infrastructure, it’s also expected to have a big impact on Wick John O’Groats (its closest airport) in particular, as well as other hubs throughout the region. “The spaceport will undoubtedly be a spin off for all the Highlands’ regional airports,” concluded Black.

 

Header image: Artist’s impression of Sutherland Spaceport. © Perfect Circle PV

Written by: Chloe Greenbank

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