Investigations to help shape the final design of the planned £17million spaceport in Sutherland are to start at the site this week.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) said a specialist survey would be carried out over the next six weeks on the A’Mhoine peninsula.
Twelve launches per year
The agency is developing the proposed Space Hub Sutherland facility as a base for up to 12 rocket launches a year, to carry small satellites into orbit.
Surveyors BAM Nuttall and Arup are due to begin detailed ground investigations on the 10.4-acre site, owned by Melness Crofters Estate, on Wednesday.
HIE said they will establish the “sequence and thickness” of the soil strata and the level of bedrock that lies beneath.
The agency added: “Laboratory testing of peat, soil and rock samples will then be carried out, with the findings being used to inform detailed design of foundations, access roads and spaceport infrastructure, including the control centre and launch pad complex.
“Groundwater conditions, the ground gas regime and any contamination that may be present on the site will also be examined as part of the investigation.”
HIE was granted approval to develop the vertical launch spaceport by Highland Council last August. The decision is being challenged by neighbouring landowner Wildland UK, owned by billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, and a judicial review is due to be held next month.
Space flight firm
Forres-based space flight company Orbex plans to use the Sutherland spaceport to launch its Prime rockets.
HIE said an environmental clerk of works will be present throughout the survey work, to ensure “all required steps are taken to avoid and mitigate any disturbance to landscape and wildlife, including birds.”
Temporary traffic lights will manage vehicle movements along a short stretch of the A838 road bordering the proposed launch site while the work is carried out.
Plans to develop the Sutherland facility were first announced in 2018 and HIE has forecast it could create more than 60 jobs in the area and 250 across the region.
There are also proposals to develop spaceports in Shetland and the Western Isles.