Scotland’s ‘Space hub Sutherland’ has gained planning approval to build the rocket launch facility.
Development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) intends to create Space Hub Sutherland on land owned by Melness Crofters Estate on the A’ Mhòine peninsula, south of Tongue. HIE had submitted plans in February this year (2020), including an extensive environmental impact assessment. Following a period of public consultation, these were considered on June 26 by the Highland Council North Planning Applications Committee.
Although the committee was minded to approve the application, the council was required formally to notify Scottish Ministers, as part of arrangements to ensure government overview of spaceport planning applications.
On August 3rd, the Scottish Government announced that ministers did not intend to intervene and the council was free to determine the outcome of HIE’s application, which it has now done and publicized on August 19th.
The decision means that small commercial satellites and launch vehicles designed and manufactured in Scotland could be taking off from Sutherland within the next few years. Up to 12 launches a year will be permitted from the spaceport, which will include a control center, 2.5 km of road and a launch pad, occupying a total of just over 10 acres of the 740-acre site.
HIE has approved a budget of £17.3 million to develop Space Hub Sutherland, including funding from the UK Space Agency and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Planning approval is subject to a set of 34 conditions, including measures to ensure operations are carried out safely and strict protection measures are implemented and monitored to protect the natural environment.
Scottish Government Innovation Minister Ivan McKee said, “I very much welcome the decision of the Highland Council to approve the planning application for Space Hub Sutherland, which will support around 250 well-paid jobs in the Highlands and Islands, including 61 in Caithness and Sutherland. This is the first of Scotland’s spaceport projects to clear the planning process and it represents a significant step forward for both the project and Scotland’s aspiration to offer the full end to end capability for manufacturing and launching small satellites and analyzing their data. The space sector has a key role to play in the fight against global climate change and this milestone has been achieved through the hard work of the Sutherland team in partnership with the local community, leading experts and public bodies.”
Graham Turnock, CEO, UK Space Agency, added, “Growing our domestic launch capability will bring new jobs and investments to communities in all corners of the UK. Space Hub Sutherland is an integral part of these plans and today’s news strengthens our position as Europe’s leading destination for small satellite launches. “The UK government is committed to minimising the environmental impact of spaceflight activities and is developing a National Space Strategy which recognises the unique contribution of satellite technology to our understanding of global issues like climate change.”
David Oxley, Director of Business Growth with HIE, also welcomed the council’s decision. “The UK’s space ambitions present a wonderful opportunity for the Highlands and Islands,” he said. “A vertical launch spaceport is a key piece of the national jigsaw, along with the design and manufacture of satellites and launch vehicles, that will ensure Scotland can derive maximum economic benefits from this growing and exciting sector. Another important aspect is the role that satellites launched from Sutherland will play in gathering data that will help people around the world to understand and address the impacts of climate change. “In developing our plans, we have always been very mindful of the environmental challenges presented by a project of this kind. Part of our ambition is to create the world’s most low-carbon space centre and the conditions applied to the planning approval will help us make that a reality.”
Nilesat has continued to see pressures on its revenues and net profit.
The Cairo-based satellite communications company reported a 17 per cent reduction in its net profit for the first six trading months of 2020.
According to its statement filed to the Egyptian Stock Exchange, the satellite operator said its net profit stood at $19,564,668 (EG Pounds 311,119,307) in H1 2020, compared to $23,812,278 in H1 2019.
The financial results of NileSat for Q1 2020 showed net profits of $10.8 million down by 5 per cent from $11.38 million in the year-ago period.
NileSat’s revenues declined to $32.36 million in the January-March period, compared to $32.86 million in the same period in 2019.
It is worth mentioning that during the full year 2019, NileSat posted net profits of $42.53 million, down 20.45 per cent from $53.46 million in 2018.
The official Committee of OneWeb’s unsecured creditors is objecting to the current Chapter 11 exit reorganization plan for OneWeb.
In a filing to the US Bankruptcy Court, they argue that the disclosure statement from OneWeb “lacks adequate information of particular importance to the unsecured creditors.” The submission to the Court stresses that they are in favour of OneWeb proceeding as a “going concern” but additional information must be supplied.
The Committee argues that, superficially, the OneWeb plan is only the result of negotiations with the debt-holders of $1.6 billion of (potentially) ‘debt for equity’ promissory Notes, and the incoming Bid100 Ltd consortium of Bharti and the UK Government which is the sponsor of the restructuring scheme.
The Committee, in its filing, stated, “The truth is that (even apart from the exclusion of the Committee), the Proposed Plan was negotiated by two parties, not three. The Debtors are controlled by the Purported Noteholders, who hold over 70 per cent of the Debtors’ equity as well as a controlling majority of the Debtors’ board of directors, and there is no evidence that any steps were taken or corporate formalities observed to separate what is best for the Debtors (and their estates) from what is best for the Purported Noteholders. Worse, it has become clear that the Debtors (and their insiders) have no qualms about using the proposed transaction with BidCo (the “BidCo Transaction”) — specifically, the threat of the loss of this transaction—as a sword to extract inappropriate concessions from unsecured creditors and to try to “box in” the Court with a Hobson’s choice: confirm an unconfirmable plan or lose the BidCo Transaction.”
The filing continued, “The Debtors can conduct plan negotiations in whatever manner they choose and, as long as exclusivity is in place, file whatever plan they see fit. However, having held their negotiations and having filed their Proposed Plan, the Debtors must now demonstrate that their Proposed Plan is confirmable on its face and that they have provided adequate information and disclosures about the agreements they have reached, for all practical purposes, with themselves. The Debtors fail on both accounts.”
The Committee argues that the plan also includes “sweeping” approval for “millions of dollars” to be paid in the form of retention and severance bonuses to OneWeb executives.
News stories authored by journalist Chris Forrester, who posts for the Advanced Television infosite and is a Senior Contributor for Satnews Publishers.