back to article Judge dismisses objections to spaceport in Scotland from billionaire who also wants to build spaceport in Scotland

Scotland has taken another step towards commercial vertical launch capability with the dismissal of objections instigated by Danish billionaire Anders Povlsen. The petition had been made by Wildland Limited, responsible for managing the enormous tracts of land owned by Povlsen. At issue was planning permission submitted by the …

  1. Chris G

    I would suggest that the Isle of Unst, as a small island with a rich and comparatively rare number of species on and around it, is at greater risk from a space port being constructed there.

    Were anything ecologically threatening to occur there, such a small ecology could be devastated overnight with little hope of it ever recovering.

    Care about the environment like charity begins at home.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Dr. G. Freeman

      From what I know of the Shetland Space Centre, they're using the old infrastructure of Saxa Vord, so it's not really construction, more "weeding and power washing the concrete", and the damage has already been done ecologically in that regard.

      As for big rockets going boom and spilling fuel all over the place, the land around there has been getting regular spills since the 60s on and off. I remember a small weather monitoring thing being launched into low-Earth orbit there in the early 90s, and it managed the sum total of 10 feet off the ground, taking out a seagull when it fell back down with a rather loud bang.

    3. AMBxx Silver badge

      Interestingly, if you search on 'unst holiday camp', you get The summary talks about renting houses.

      Click the link and all that does now is talk about being a space port.

      Sounds like the holiday business didn't do so well so they went for space travel instead.

      Who'd have though that ex-military housing at a difficult to reach location isn't appealing?

  2. Potemkine! Silver badge

    A Spaceport in Shetlands? Is this a good idea to send a rocket to space from such a northern latitude? :~

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Mostly yes.

      Main problem is weather and feeding the workers

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        and feeding the workers

        I mean with Shetlands, they practically sealed the deal on that one...

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          >and feeding the workers

          I'm sure the wilder regions of Scotland are now a prime destination for international gourmets - but my experience was more like the pub in American Werewolf in London

    2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      It's a fantasic idea for Polar Orbit. I rather think rocket scientists know their onions,... I mean, they are _rocket scientists_ after all.

      1. Potemkine! Silver badge

        It's a fantasic idea for Polar Orbit.

        Are you sure? : Whatever the orbit the northern you go the less additional velocity you get from Earth rotation.

        If it is an advantage to go north to reach a polar orbit, I wonder why the US launch their rockets from Vandenberg Space Force Base rather than from Alaska?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          For a polar orbit the latitude has no rotation advantage. It doesn't matter as much where you launch from, Away from the equator has less Earth velocity to get rid of but for LEO it doesn't really matter. Early equatorial launches really needed the extra boost to get to GSO or the moon.

          What you do need is no friendly population, or unfreindly population with tracking stations, immediately north (or south) of you.

      2. General Purpose

        >I mean, they are _rocket scientists_ after all.

        Oh no they're not. To quote a NASA engineer, "it's not science!".

    3. IDoNotThinkSo

      The further north the better, if you want a polar orbit. Not as much angular velocity to scrub off.

      Not so good for geostationary satellites, of course, where the closer you are to the equator, the better.

    4. DarkwavePunk

      Depends on what orbit you want to lob your sat to be in I guess. I hear polar orbits are all the rage now.

      Edit: Well I'm late to that party

    5. Peter2 Silver badge

      It depends on the sort of orbit that you want.

      Most usable orbits (eg geostationary etc) benefit from being launched as close to the equator as possible to obtain an instant speed of ~1kps from the earths rotation. Such satellites tend to orbit around the earth basically horizontally around the equator.

      You can however go for a polar orbit where the satellite orbits vertically around the poles of the planet, which is about the only thing I can imagine launching from Scotland would be useful for.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1

        Vertical orbit??

        All orbits are horizontal, in the sense that they're heading towards (and over!) the horizon. The only way a polar orbit is "vertical" is from the point of view of someone looking at an Earth map with a north-up convention (although south-up would also work, but you don't see many of them).

        1. DarkwavePunk

          Re: Vertical orbit??

          I'm a little confused as to what you're getting at unless it's a semantic game. The Earth has a rotation, axis, shape and relative position. You could give North, East, South, West any labels you like, but there's a fundamental difference between an equatorial and axis aligned orbit. Maybe "vertical" is a klunky term that you object to.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Vertical orbit??

            Surely Earth has a top surface an edge and a bottom surface (where we keep Australia)

            1. batfink

              Re: Vertical orbit??

              You're holding it upside-down....

            2. Lars Silver badge

              Re: Vertical orbit??

              Top surface and bottom surface, compared to what?

              1. Cuddles

                Re: Vertical orbit??

                The middle.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Vertical orbit??

              No, it's turtles all the way down...

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There's no problem. Equatorial sites are only really advantageous if you are lobbing payloads into geosynchronous or near-equatorial orbits.

      The biggest drawback for launching from Scotland is that the number of days when it won't be blowing a hooley might be rather limited.

  3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Tell tale signs

    If you see a name of a billionaire, try to add "child labour" next to it to Google search.

  4. ThatOne Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Pray tell

    So Povlsen invested in a spaceport on the island of Unst in the Shetlands, and is suing to prevent the construction of a rival spaceport in northern Scotland? Who is building that Scottish spaceport anyway?

    Also, what is both their business plans, besides subsidies, crofters, and sheep? I understand both want to hop on that bandwagon, any bandwagon, but what makes anybody think this won't end as a complete waste of money? (Genuine question, a simple downvote won't do)

    Funny thing, I fired up Openstreetsmap to get an idea of where everything was, and lo and behold, the "Space Hub Sutherland" is already proudly displayed. The Unst one isn't though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pray tell

      Who is building that Scottish spaceport anyway?

      That is a good question and far from clear.

      Form what I have heard on the grapevine all of the UK spaceports have problems and are going nowhere without some gov support, either directly in terms of grants or indirectly via MOD promised contracts, etc. Sure they all tell you there is a lot of business to be had but as usual the UK is falling far behind other nations (e.g. Norway, China, etc, etc) due to problematic regional rivalry, and more fundamentally a lack of gov commitment to do something.

      Shetland = good north location, abysmal weather and limited access from mainland. Planning turned down as they want to remove WW2 stuff, company behind it has "interesting" history/structures.

      Sutherland = reasonable location, getting there involves single track roads so pretty poor access for lorries of fuel, etc. Actually has planning permission, but sod-all done on the ground.

      Macrihanish = real infrastructure and tolerable road access, risk of Cambletown being hit by vertical launch (jury out on that being good or bad...)

      Prestwick = good roads, ridiculously close to major population

      Snowdonia = much like Macrihanish

      Cornwall = a bit like Prestwick (but gets the UK space agency love).

      Here in Scotland the gov talks bullishly about a space future, but actually does very little to help. Yes, they have poured a lot of money in to some companies like ClydeSpace (now owned by the Swedish, AAC) and Spire (basically USA) but not much in to actual Scottish work. Much of the money spent so far on the spaceports has been consultancy by Lockheed Martin (yup, USA again).

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Pray tell

        > Form what I have heard on the grapevine

        Thank you, that confirms my first impression that it is all just a means to siphon off taxpayers' money. At worst they will bulldozer a little around, then, after a suitable time to let people forget (year or so), it will be definitely canned.

        How can people believe this nonsense? It's not like we're desperately lacking independent spaceports. The vast majority of rocket builders have their own launching facilities, not to mention shipping a big, ready to launch rocket to northern Scotland or the Shetlands will definitely cost a fortune and require a large, well-equipped harbor and large, non-sloping roads between it and the launching facility. Unless they also build a rocket factory and a fuel depot besides them, those spaceports will be just a useless waste of concrete.

        Do they think it's like an airport, but for "spaceships"?...

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Pray tell

          But when Scotland gets independence and develops independent technology of such awesome secretiveness that you can't trust launching your payloads from the USA - then they will need their own launch site (in hollowed out volcano naturally)

        2. John H Woods Silver badge

          Re: Pray tell

          Exactly: I'm sure half the problem is the use of the word 'spaceport' for something that would more accurately be described as a launch (and possibly landing) pad.

      2. druck Silver badge

        Re: Pray tell

        If you are near Newquay, Cornwall Spaceport is worth a visit, they've got a full size rocket on display and it's impressively big to be strapped under the wing of one of Branson's jumbos.

      3. Danny 2

        Re: Pray tell

        "Prestwick = good roads, ridiculously close to major population"

        You do realise that Glasgow Prestwick Airport is nowhere near Glasgow? The Trident nuclear missiles are far closer. Actually, there's a solution. Decommission the nukes, launch the satellites into space from the subs.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Pray tell

          Yes, but Glasgow (and greater Glasgow area) is a big area to hit having the majority of Scotland's population, and rockets (or debris from commanded destruction) can come down many miles from launch.

          Also Ayr is immediately adjacent to Prestwick and has about ten times the population of Cambletown, and Troon just to the north-west has just over 3 times, then a little further and Irvine about 7 times, etc.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    I find it unbelievable that there is so much focus on space when there is so much to fix down here where the plebs live.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Priorities

      Has been like that pretty much since we discovered fire.

      Otherwise we would still pretty much be in caves sharing out the fire.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Priorities

        We can't waste time on these boffins with their promises of fire when we have all this tough mammoth meat to chew.

        1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

          Re: Priorities

          do people want fire that can be fitted nasally?

          1. Robert Moore

            Re: Priorities

            > do people want fire that can be fitted nasally?

            Yes. Yes they do.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Priorities

              Ok smartarse, YOU tell ME what colour it should be then!

          2. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Priorities

            I think we have well established that people want fire that can be fitted anally, so I imagine nasally is probably not far behind...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Priorities

        Well, fire is a good anti-inflatonary tool if your monetary system is based on leaves.

    2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Priorities

      Space exploration can provide you with a right set of keywords for a campaign and there is a lot of things that can go wrong, which means there is a lot of creative opportunities to siphon tax payer money out.

    3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Priorities

      It's a jobs program: Promise to hire locals, get government funding, forget promises.

    4. TheProf

      Re: Priorities

      Do you mean focus of money, time, publicity, column inches?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That comment from Orbex...

    "We're especially pleased for the crofters of the Melness Crofters Estate, who will be able to protect and develop their community with modern jobs. Sutherland is still the only UK spaceport with planning permission and now, with this ruling, the countdown to space launch from the UK can begin."

    That's pretty condescending: these crofters might well prefer crofting rather than be forced to take up jobs at the site as security guards, cleaners or B&B operators because Orbex has also imported a bunch of technicians who will price the locals out their homes.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: That comment from Orbex...

      I don't know, baking space cookies can be fun.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: That comment from Orbex...

      No, no, it is well known that spaceports require a huge amount of unqualified workers. To load/unload the hay bales from the spaceships and all that.

      Seriously, as you said most workers (if there are ever workers required) will be imported. It's cheaper than to train the locals, but most of all, you'd have to hire the locals, while else you just outsource to service companies (security, cleaning, catering, and so on).

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: That comment from Orbex...

        "To load/unload the hay bales from the spaceships and all that."

        have SEEN how much horsepower it takes to launch a rocket? That's a LOT of hay required. Then there's the fallout of lots of fresh manure!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That comment from Orbex...

      Crofting is rarely a full time job - every one I know of has at least one other job in order to earn a living.

      ( the original crofts were assigned to people cleared from their homes and were intended to be insufficient to support a family, hence providing a source of local labour for the landowners )

  7. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    They must build the Mos Eisley Cantina first.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Where in Scotland would you find such a hive of scum and villainy ?

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Not since 18th century Edinburgh --- New Town as well as Old.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Where in Scotland would you find such a hive of scum and villainy ?

        Try Holyrood. Or any Glasgow pub.

  8. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

    Finally ...

    With the construction of a Scottish spaceport, we will at last get to know the speed of a sheep in a vacuum.

    1. Mark White

      Re: Finally ...

      "speed of a sheep in a vacuum"

      Although the answer is probably obvious, is that an unlaiden British or Kiwi sheep?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Finally ...

        Well of course the Kiwi sheep is non-migratory...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Presumably the Shetland site will be more secure due to the reintroduction of wolves and beavers and bears.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Are there any woods? The bears need somewhere to shit.

  10. Overflowing Stack

    Does it mean I'll be able to catch a rocket to go do my shopping at Bejams?

  11. Winkypop Silver badge

    Space port, in Scotland?

    That will explain all the interest in fried Mars Bars then.

  12. Trollslayer

    It's been done before


    1. Danny 2

      Re: It's been done before

      Gordon Jackson, Donald Sinden and Ronnie Corbett all in the one movie? Wow.

      Off topic anecdote: I flew into Lerwick to fix a computer in the ATC tower and was picked up straight from the aircraft. In the terminal a wheen of paparazzi cameras started flashing. I said to the driver, that's enthusiastic plane spotters. He replied, they think you are Jarvis Cocker. I replied, Aye, I get that everywhere I go. No offence but how do you even know who Jarvis is? (He was quite old and since I'd been a Pulp fan since they were an '80s Peel band I still was surprised by their success).

      Oh, they are playing here tonight. Jarvis is flying in later and the rest of the group are on the ferry.

      I could pay to stay overnight, what's the chances I could buy a ticket? He just laughed and laughed.

      Shetland’s biggest gig – the day Pulp flew in to Lerwick

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon