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Large new spaceport near Hermaness Nature Reserve draws strong RSPB objections (1 Viewer)


New member
United Kingdom
I was in the past a visitor to the NNR at Hermaness and noticed a while ago they are planning a massive spaceport nearby that intends to launch 30 large American rockets from Lockheed Martin annually, which is more launches per year than Cape Canaveral. Here is a news item:

Lockheed: Shetland Spaceport to Launch 30 Rockets Annually

The problem is that this rocket site is about 1.5-2 miles from Hermaness, and the RSPB has objected the development based on the panic caused to cliff-nesting birds and the brooding rare species nearby. Here is the page at RSPB:

RSPB Objects to Rocket Site Due to Abandoned Nests and Rare Species

We are worried that the noise from the launches could cause birds nesting on the cliffs to fly up in large numbers, which could leave chicks or eggs exposed, knock chicks or eggs from the cliffs or even cause some birds to abandon their nests

We have also objected due to the potential impacts on two rare bird species which breed on Unst. We are concerned that breeding pairs in the area would be disturbed by the rocket launches.

I think this is worthy of some raised awareness from birders across the world.


Well-known member
Presumably they'll need to do an environmental impact assessment before awarding permission for this? Is this separate from the spaceport planned for Sutherland?

When I watch launches from Cape Canaveral, Florida, it looks like it's set in wetlands. Do we know if there are impacts on birds there?

Farnboro John

Well-known member
I wonder if anyone in the space business has looked at the number of days a year North Shetland is suitable for space vehicle launches?

I'd have thought it almost certain that the only likely launch window days will be smack in the middle of the bird breeding season.



Staff member
They are not launching "large rockets". It is part of the current grab of the smallsat market. Technology has reached a point where useful things can be done with satellites the size of shoeboxes. The traditional launch systems are not cost effective for such small payloads and this had led to a plethora of private companies seeking to develop small, cheap launchers specifically for smallsats. There are upwards of 20 companies in various states of development. They also need somewhere to launch from. A lot of smallsats are Earth observation satellites and northern Scotland is good place to access the required orbits, but so are lots of other places on Earth. Various Scottish councils and development bodies have been trying to get their finger in the pie, there are a least 3 "spaceports" in development in northern Scotland. Plus New Zealand, Japan, Alaska, 3 in the lower 48 plus a couple of airborne launch platforms.

Most of this development is going nowhere, the chances of any of the Scottish projects actually coming to fruition is slim.


Well-known member
There's a burgeoning space industry developing in and around Glasgow, focused like you say on small or "cube" satellites.

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