It has been announced this morning (Monday July 16th) that the a’Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland will be the site of the UK’s first spaceport, confirming rumours that proposed locations in the Western Isles had not been favoured.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil called the decision ‘hugely disappointing’, since it means that North Uist has missed out on selection as the site of the UK’s first spaceport. North Uist had been identified as a possible spaceport site due to the existing rocket range, with exercises in long-range missile firing seen as a good advert for the site’s potential.

The only rocket ever to reach space from UK soil was launched from the Uist rocket range in October 2015, as part of the NATO military exercise Joint Warrior. The rocket, which had been shipped to Uist from the US, reached space before being shot down by USS Ross, the US Navy’s guided missile destroyer.

Discussions around the spaceport bid earlier this year involved Mr MacNeil MP, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Scottish Government representatives. There had also been talk of a spaceport at Stornoway airport, where facilities built to accommodate Second World War air traffic were seen as demonstrating the available infrastructure there.
Mr MacNeil said: “It is hugely disappointing that North Uist has not been chosen as the site for the UK’s first spaceport. Uist is an ideal site due to its location and also because of the expertise and experience already in place at the Hebrides Range.”

Highlands and Islands Enterprise will receive £2.5 million in UK grant aid to help develop the Sutherland proposal. It’s hoped the spaceport will be operational by the early 2020s.