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Council / Rocket engine testing plans get boost from planners

Engine testing at Scatsta in May last year.

NOISE impact on people and wildlife from rocket engine testing at Scatsta Airport will “not be significantly detrimental”, according to planners.

It comes as a change of use planning application for a section of the airport grounds for two years was approved.

Rocket engine testing has already taken place at the site, with German company Hympulse carrying out fiery work in May.

The council’s planning service said as a result the change of use application would be deemed retrospective.

The testing in May was carried out in conjunction with Shetland Space Centre – which is now called SaxaVord Spaceport.

It brought a taste of the emerging space industry to Shetland ahead of SaxaVord’s plans to launch satellite rockets in Unst from next year.

In approving the change of use application, planners said it had been “demonstrated that the development will not have a significant adverse impact on the natural environment of the surrounding area”.

“It has been demonstrated that the noise impact of the development will be similar in magnitude to that of the former operational airport at Scatsta, but impacts will be significantly less given the frequency and duration of rocket engine testing that is to take place at the site,” they added.

There are a number of conditions attached to the approval; rocket engine testing can only take place up to three times in one week, and a firing event will not last more than 40 seconds.

Planning staff believes this means noise impact will not be significantly detrimental to birds, when compared to Scatsta’s previous use as an airport.

Firing rocket engines will also only be able to take place between 8am and 6pm Monday to Saturday.

The planning service requested that no fuel is stored on site, and that rocket engine testing should be limited to only engine types that are fuelled by paraffin/liquid oxygen, which the applicant said is “completely non-toxic”.

Scatsta Airport has been vacant following its closure last year.