THE public are to be asked for their views on the plans for a satellite launch site in the Highlands.

A proposed spaceport that will launch communications satellites into orbit from the Moine peninsula in Sutherland will be the subject of two public events to be held over the next two months as part of the necessary public consultation process.

Development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which is backing the £17.3 million project to design and build Space Hub Sutherland, has lodged a proposal of application notice with the Highland Council.

The notice starts the process that will lead to a formal application for planning permission being submitted to the local authority at the end of December.

HIE is organising public events at Melness Community Centre on Wednesday, October 2, and Monday November 25, each running from 3.30pm to 8.00pm. The events are designed to enable anyone with an interest in the project to find out more about it and question the design team and developers, before making comment on the plans if so desired.

Additional events will be held between these dates, and details posted online at where copies of the plans will also be published.

HIE says Space Hub Sutherland will create 40 jobs at the spaceport itself and 400 in the area.

HIE has approved £9.8m to develop Space Hub Sutherland, and the UK Space Agency has awarded £2.5m. A further £5m is being sought from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

UKSA has also awarded grants to two companies that plan to launch satellites from Sutherland – Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Orbex, which has already established a manufacturing facility in the Moray town of Forres.

Roy Kirk, HIE’s Space Hub Sutherland project director, said: “This is a hugely ambitious project, not only for Sutherland but for the whole of the UK.

“The British space sector is in a phase of expansion at present and the Highlands and Islands have the natural assets, skills base and supply chain expertise to capitalise on the huge opportunity this presents.

“Space Hub Sutherland is now approaching a very exciting stage where we will shortly be able to start presenting the detail of our plans to stakeholders, including people who live in the vicinity of the launch site.

“It’s really important for local people to have a chance to find out what the spaceport will mean for the area, and that we listen to their views to help shape our planning application.”