17th December 2018
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Call for council to be clear on space race

A rocket has been placed under Shetland’s attempts to join the space race.

Councillors have been told the authority needs to be clear on its position if Unst is going to maximise its potential as a satellite launch site.

It comes after the island was highlighted in a far-reaching report – entitled “Sceptre” – commissioned by the UK Space Agency.

Saxa Vord was listed in the report as a suitable location for a vertical launch site.

The Westminster government wants the UK to have its own sovereign capability to launch by 2020.

A business case by Shetland Space Centre is being supported by the SIC and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

However, other sites in Caithness and the Western Isles are also in the running to house the site.

Members of Monday’s development committee were reminded that the deadline was fast looming.

Head of the department Neil Grant told councillors: “You’ll be aware of the national media coming out about what the UK government plans are for a vertical satellite launch in the UK.

“Twenty-twenty is not far away. We have three entities in the north of Scotland interested in vertical launch.

“There’s a UK government commitment to whittle that three down to one, and we clearly want Shetland’s case to be the winner.

“The council needs to be clear on its position. I’m proposing that I take back a report as soon as I can that defines what the options for the council are and should be.

“In terms of economic opportunities, it’s pretty huge. In terms of how the council engages with it, I guess that’s the question.”

A local space event, hosted by Shetland Space Centre, is due to take place next week.

The event is being organised to showcase the supply chain, as well as the proposed launch site and infrastructure.

Major players in the industry are due to attend.

• More on this story in Friday’s Shetland Times.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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