Out of this world
Outer Space and the Outer Hebrides are not usually closely associated. However, some scenes from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, the 1968 film directed by American director Stanley Kubrick, were filmed on the Isle of Harris where its lunar landscape represented Jupiter on screen. Since then life has gone on to imitate art, with space becoming closer than ever before.
Although the UK does not yet have a spaceport, the Outer Hebrides was the site of the first space launch from UK soil. In October 2015, as part of a military exercise called 'At Sea Demonstration 15', a USA 'Terrier-Orion' rocket was launched from the Hebrides Range in South Uist.
In November 2017 South Uist hit the headlines again as the base for a launch which broke two UK records. The largest object from UK soil was launched into space, which reached the highest altitude to date, at 320km. This was part of another international exercise called Formidable Shield.
Unst in Shetland has now been approved by the UK Government as the chosen site for Shetland Space Centre. It is hoped to be the first fully functioning site by 2022. This will be a commercial vertical satellite launch facility catering to a rapidly growing international market. North Uist in the Outer Hebrides is another possible site for a commercial spaceport. Collecting climate change and weather data are two of the main areas in which satellites are seen as vital technology for the future.
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