THE first rocket launch platform to be built in the UK in more than 50 years has made an 80-mile journey across the Highlands from Peterhead to the Orbex test site at Kinloss.

A police escort accompanied the two huge lorries as they transported their cargo weighing more than 40 tonnes through the Scottish countryside to the site near the company’s headquarters in Forres.

The platform, known as LP1, will support the testing of the Orbex Prime rocket, a microlauncher designed to transport small satellites weighing around 150kg to a low Earth orbit.

This will be the first launchpad of its type since the High Down test site on the Isle of Wight – where the Black Arrow rocket was tested – closed in the 1970s.

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Although actual launches of the Prime rocket will not take place from Kinloss, the platform is capable of launching an orbital rocket, allowing full “dress rehearsals” of the procedures to take place ahead of the first launch from Orbex’s home spaceport Space Hub Sutherland.

LP1 offers the infrastructure and supporting services to enable a variety of integration tests to take place before the launch preparation, including testing of the main propellant tanks and multi-engine hot fire testing under vertical firing conditions.

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It will also enable the launch operations team to test launch procedures including rollout and fuelling techniques in advance of the first expected launch.

The platform was built by Motive Offshore Group, a leading Scottish company specialising in the design and manufacture of marine and lifting equipment, and will now be installed on site.

Orbex submitted its application to the UK Civil Aviation Authority last week for a launch licence, the latest stage on its roadmap to starting commercial space launches, becoming one of the first UK launch operators to do so.

The launch licence ensures that operators meet the regulatory requirements set by the Space Industry Act 2018 (SIA) and Space Industry Regulations 2021 (SIR), introduced by the UK Government.

Space Hub Sutherland is the world’s first carbon-neutral spaceport and the only one in the UK to have received full planning permission and construction is due to begin later this year.

Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex, described the application as another big step for the company, and one of several parallel tracks that will enable launch operations to commence.

He said: “The application process is rigorous and detailed, with a strong focus on safety. It has taken a large team more than two years to complete the investigations and analysis required to submit the license application today.

“We are looking forward to working with the Civil Aviation Authority over the coming months as they assess our application.”