The Scottish Government has insisted that a high-profile Highland spaceport project will be a “commercial” operation rather than military.

The Holyrood administration moved to clarify the status of Space Hub Sutherland after appeared to link it to the RAF and Ministry of Defence (MoD).

In a statement on military investment in the Commons on Thursday, Mr Johnson said: “We will establish… a new RAF Space Command, launching British satellites and our first rocket from Scotland in 2022.”

We previously reported that spaceport developers in the Highlands and Islands were surprised by the announcement, and that they had not been consulted.

Space Hub Sutherland, a vertical-launching spaceport project being developed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) near Tongue, aims to launch its first rockets in 2022.

Rocket man: Boris Johnson shot down over Highland spaceport
Illustration issued by NORR Architects/HIE of a design for the UK’s first spaceport, which is one step closer to being built, after plans were approved by Highland Council.

The scheme has been backed by both the UK Space Agency and the Scottish Government.

Sutherland site will be ‘commercial spaceport’

Asked about the prime minister’s announcement, a Scottish Government spokesman played down any link to the military.

“Our ambition is for Scotland to become the first country in Europe to provide an end-to-end solution for small satellite manufacture, launch and innovation in satellite data analysis, including critical earth observation and environmental data, and this includes the development of commercial spaceports,” he said.

“Space Hub Sutherland will operate as a commercial spaceport that enables the launch of small satellites for purposes such as weather mapping and gathering data to monitor climate change.

“The responsibility for spaceflight regulation, and defence, are reserved to the UK Government.”

Under plans announced by Mr Johnson, a new Space Command would be established next year at RAF High Wycombe, alongside RAF Air Command.

Rocket man: Boris Johnson shot down over Highland spaceport
, seen here speaking via video link, has spoken of “a new RAF Space 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 Ministry of Defence’s recently formed Space Directorate, which will be responsible for policy, strategy and cross-government and international coordination.

A UK Government spokesman has 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.”

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