Construction has started on the first orbital space launchpad to be built in the UK for more than half a century in Moray. 

The state-of-the-art Launch Platform will support the testing of Orbex's Prime rocket, designed to transport small satellites to low Earth orbit.

Although Orbex will operate its launches from Space Hub Sutherland, the test launch platform being built in Kinloss will allow for full ‘dress rehearsals’ of launch procedures.

Known as Orbex LP1, the launchpad is expected to be fully operational by early 2022.

Space Hub Sutherland is one of seven potential spaceport sites across the UK and is being developed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. The spaceport is expected to generate around 60 jobs in Caithness and Sutherland, and a total of 250 jobs in the wider region.

READ MORE: Sutherland spaceport plans pass further legal hurdle

Space Hub Sutherland is the world’s first carbon-neutral spaceport and the only spaceport in the UK to have received full planning permission. Construction of the spaceport is due to begin early in 2022.

Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex: “The ability for our engineers to test Prime on its own launchpad is a major advancement on the roadmap to launch, and we are happy to already be constructing this major piece of infrastructure with Motive Offshore, a partner which has a very strong track record in other relevant industries.

"This will be the first launchpad of its kind built in the UK for more than half a century and we look forward to seeing it completed and ready to go into service in the New Year.”

Orbex LP1 is the first launchpad of its kind to be built in the UK since the High Down Rocket Test Site facility on the Isle of Wight, which was decommissioned in the early 1970.

High Down was the test site for the Black Arrow rocket, the first – and so far only – British-made rocket to successfully deliver a satellite into Earth's orbit, launching from Woomera in Australia on 28 October, 1971.

HeraldScotland:

The UK Space Agency supported the development of Orbex’s Prime Rocket with £5.5 million of funding, as part of the government’s plans to enable small satellite launches from UK spaceports.

Ian Annett, Deputy CEO of the UK Space Agency, said: "The construction of this new facility marks another major milestone in our ambitions to become a modern, agile spacefaring nation. Orbex is an innovative spaceflight company developing its own launch vehicle which will be tested at this new facility, before launching from Space Hub Sutherland.

"This is a very exciting time for the UK space sector, as we look ahead to the first-ever satellite launches from UK soil next year."