Spaceport developers in the Highlands and Islands were caught unawares by Boris Johnson’s proposal to create a new “RAF Space Command”, it is understood.
The prime minister announced the plan on Thursday, while linking it to well-established projects that aim to launch rockets from sites in Scotland.
However, The Press and Journal understands that organisations behind some of the vertical-launching schemes were not consulted on the move.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has stated in the past that its Space Hub Sutherland development, near Tongue, would not be a military facility.
In a statement in the Commons on Thursday, Mr Johnson said: “We will establish a new centre dedicated to artificial intelligence, and a new RAF Space Command, launching British satellites and our first rocket from Scotland in 2022.”
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) aims to establish the new Space Command next year, and it will be based at RAF High Wycombe, alongside RAF Air Command.
It will have a commander, be staffed from all three services as well as the civil service and commercial sector, looking at space operations, workforce generation, and capabilities.
It would work alongside the MoD’s recently formed Space Directorate, which will be responsible for policy, strategy and cross-government and international coordination.
A UK Government spokesman said: “Spaceports offer an exciting route to enhance the future prosperity of the UK and we welcome the progress being made by the UK Space Agency.
“Spaceports will provide opportunity for a range of customers, especially in the context of improving global communications and data sharing.”
Earlier this year a spokesman for HIE said: “We expect satellites launched from Sutherland to be used for telecommunications and Earth observation, including weather mapping and gathering data to monitor climate change.
“Just like an airport, a spaceport will cater for a range of customers.
“It will be the job of the launch site operator, once one is appointed, to decide who these customers should be.
“All uses of the launch site will of course be covered by relevant UK and Scottish legislation and monitored by the appropriate regulators.”
The PM’s announcement is a huge step forward for Future Combat Air System and the new Space Command. It confirms the UK’s position as a global leader in air & space power, building the Next Generation RAF to protect our nation into the future. @DefenceHQ @RoyalAirForce pic.twitter.com/u6OMD6WPxK
— ACM Sir Mike Wigston (@ChiefofAirStaff) November 19, 2020