Business / Space centre team hopes to start construction later this year

Lamba Ness in Unst where Shetland Space Centre proposes to build a commercial satellite launch base. Photo: Shetland Space Centre
Lamba Ness in Unst where Shetland Space Centre proposes to build a commercial satellite launch base. Photo: Shetland Space Centre

THERE are hopes that construction work on launch facilities and infrastructure for the Shetland Space Centre project could begin in mid-2021.

Full plans for the development have now been submitted to Shetland Islands Council, and they offer more details of what may be store for the project and also for Unst.


If everything goes to plan the first launch from Lamba Ness could take place no later than spring 2022.

Documents lodged as part of the planning submission say that subject to securing all necessary consent, the first construction phase could begin later this year.

This phase, the most thorough of three, could last around 10 months.

Shetland Space Centre is looking to achieve a maximum of 30 satellite launches per year from the site, although in the first year of operation, it is anticipated that there will be up to 10 launches.

The site at Lamba Ness, which used to house a former RAF radar station, would see three launch pads created alongside a satellite tracking station and other buildings and storage.


All launches will take place in a northerly direction over the sea, with marine risk said to be “negligible or minor”.

The launch pads will need to be lighted at night for a short period of time during individual launch cycles for safety reasons.

An environmental impact assessment has been carried out and documents say that a “number of significant effects are predicted including significant landscape effects on the landscape character of the proposed launch site and its surroundings, visual effects on residents at settlements and tourists including recreational walkers”.


All likely effects on birds are “assessed as nonsignificant, apart from a confidential Schedule 1 species, where minor magnitude operational effects are considered likely to be significant in the absence of mitigation”.

There will also be significant effect on the scheduled remains of RAF Skaw, resulting in the removal of a number of features.

“Detailed mitigation including a programme of archaeological works overseen by an archaeological clerk of works will be implemented to mitigate direct effects prior to and during the construction phase,” the applicant said.

The traffic impacts during the construction phase are noted to be temporary and can be mitigated by the introduction of a management plan, the documents say, and a new piece of public road at Northdale is mooted.

The short duration of engine tests and launches will “reduce the associated levels of annoyance to below that which may be associated with aircraft noise from conventional airports”, the applicant adds.

The documents also continue to point to the economic impact the development could bring to Unst and Shetland, not only in job creation but also in tourism.

Unst Community Council, meanwhile, is encouraging anyone in the island to pass on any thoughts on the plans. Local folk can also comment on Shetland Islands Council’s planning website.

The developer said that feedback from consultation events held before the plans were submitted were around 75 per cent positive.