Work underway at Orbex’s Sutherland Spaceport

Construction of the Sutherland Spaceport on Scotland’s north coast has begun, with owner Orbex claiming the site will be home to up to 12 launches per year.


Previously known as Space Hub Sutherland, the Spaceport is located on Scotland’s A' Mhòine peninsula and is set to be the first vertical launch spaceport built on mainland UK. Orbex said the facility will support around 250 new jobs in the Highlands and Islands region over the coming years, including 40 jobs in Sutherland and Caithness. According to economic impact assessments commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the spaceport has the potential to generate almost £1bn in gross value added (GVA) for the local economy over the next 30 years.

As well as owning and operating the site, Orbex will also act be the primary customer of the spaceport. Sutherland was designed as the launch base for Orbex’s Prime satellite microlauncher, a 19m two-stage rocket capable of deliver 180kg payloads into low Earth orbit (LEO). The company says it has received widespread interest from commercial satellite manufacturers and has already signed launch contracts with seven customers.

“Sutherland represents a new breed of spaceport, for a new breed of rocket,” said Kristian von Bengtson, chief development officer and interim CEO at Orbex.

Orbex and partners attend the grroundbreaking ceremony - Orbex

“This is 21st century, agile spaceflight with sustainability at its core. With the construction of Sutherland Spaceport underway, this is an important piece of the puzzle that will make the UK a modern space nation. Just as importantly, we’re hopefully also setting the tone for how business can be a force for good, creating jobs and opportunities while minimising the impact upon the environment.”

Orbex Prime is powered by a renewable biofuel called Futuria Liquid Gas, supplied by Calor UK. The biofuel fuel allows the rocket to reduce carbon emissions significantly compared to other similarly sized rockets. According to Orbex, a study by Exeter University  showed that a single launch of the Orbex Prime rocket will produce 96 per cent lower carbon emissions than comparable space launch systems using fossil fuels. The rocket is also reusable and has been designed to leave ‘zero debris’ both on Earth and in-orbit.

Orbex recently signed a 50-year sub-lease with HIE, enabling Orbex to direct the construction and assume full operational management of Sutherland Spaceport on the community-owned Melness Crofters Estate. Jacobs has been contracted for the construction of the site as well as operations support. The company has previously supported NASA across multiple Space Centres and spaceflight programmes, including at Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

“As an investor in Orbex, Jacobs is deeply committed to supporting this key project which is of immense importance to the UK’s fast growing space sector,” said Andy White, Jacobs vice president.

“We are looking forward to fulfilling our role as prime constructor for the spaceport, including design, procurement and management of the local supply chain, as well as providing operations support and engineering services.”