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Sutherland spaceport opens up ‘amazing opportunity’ for Dounreay site

DOUNREAY has “an amazing opportunity” to play a part in creating the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport site in the far north.

That’s the view of managing director Phil Craig after the Moine near Melness in north Sutherland was confirmed as the location for the spaceport.

The announcement is expected to lead to a £20 million investment, creating or sustaining an estimated 400 jobs and result in the launch of six small rockets a year.

Dounreay, which is being decommissioned, has the engineering, scientific and technical skills to play a role in the spaceport. Its expertise is thought to have formed part of the case for siting the facility at the Moine, which is about 40 miles west of Dounreay.

Cavendish Dounreay Partnership (CDP) and its subsidiary Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL) have invested resources in the spaceport proposal as part of its bid to identify and develop new jobs after the closure of the plant.

Mr Craig said: “Every single one of us here at Dounreay recognises the importance of seizing opportunities like these to create new job opportunities, not just for this generation but the one that follows when Dounreay is gone.”

He added: “Our skill sets in engineering, environmental science, programme management and a range of technical disciplines are easily transferable to industries such as the space sector and I am committed to working closely with the developer and operator to make the most of this amazing opportunity for our people.”

CDP chairman Simon Bowen said: “Decommissioning a complex nuclear site like Dounreay is about more than getting it into a state that is safe for future generations – it is also about securing the social and economic prosperity of future generations.

“The UK vertical launch facility is a key priority, with the potential to deliver high-value employment and supply chain opportunities.”

Sutherland was one of three potential spaceport locations to submit outline business cases to Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) earlier this year. The others were Scolpaig on North Uist and Unst in Shetland.

All three were assessed by independent consultants with specialist knowledge of the space sector.

Each one met key criteria, including the ability to stage north facing launches over the sea into both polar and sun-synchronous orbit.

However, the business case for Sutherland was judged stronger overall, including being successfully awarded UK Space Agency funding for its proposals in collaboration with potential launch operators.

HIE chief executive Charlotte Wright said: “We’re very clear that we want to work with others to ensure the benefits of a spaceport in the Highlands and Islands are not confined to Sutherland, but extend well beyond.

“A central part of our approach as we develop this project will be to explore opportunities throughout our region.”

Source: John O'Groat Journal

Image: Lockheed Martin