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Too many Scottish spaceports?

January 23, 2024

There are currently two Spaceports being built in northern Scotland and seeking rocket launch business. The two (Sutherland Spaceport on the A’Mhoine peninsula and SaxaVord Spaceport on Unst, Shetland) could be one too many says a senior figure at SaxaVord.

Scott Hammond, deputy CEO and operations director of SaxaVord Spaceport, told a Scottish parliamentary committee last week that he did not think that two such facilities were required.

“We have got to get away from this view that we have to have spaceports everywhere. I just do not think that is necessary…. I see no need for this dissipation of resources,” he told the committee.

However, his rival Martin Coates, who has just stepped down as interim chief executive but remains a director of Orbex, the aerospace company responsible for developing and operating Sutherland Spaceport, strongly disagreed.

His advice to the Scottish Affairs Committee’s third public evidence session on Scotland’s space sector, was that both were needed. “I can use all the capacity we have got in Sutherland for my own business,” he told the committee. “I do not need to have a secondary operator on that site so we are not putting it out as a commercial offer in the way that SaxaVord is. So, it is a completely different business model.

“The current capacity we have permission for is not sufficient for our plans and we are going to be launching elsewhere relatively soon. We may well want to be a customer of SaxaVord in the future,” he added. “There is plenty of demand and we see it with a building pipeline of enquiries. Almost every week a new company talks to us about potential launch opportunities.”

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