Meanwhile Orbex unveils prototype vertical rocket
The UK Government has announced the UK’s first satellite launches from British soil will take place this summer from two of its remotest corners, Cornwall in the south-west and the Shetland Islands in the far north-east. The first-ever space take offs from British soil will be from Spaceport Cornwall. Meanwhile, Shetlands-based SaxaVord has announced a partnership with Astra Space for satellite launches. Another Scottish company, Orbex has unveiled a prototype of the first-ever vertical rocket system from UK soil.
SaxaVord UK in Shetland has announced a partnership with Astra Space to provide dedicated orbital launch services to a growing European satellite market. Astra was the first space launch company to be publicly traded on Nasdaq. Located on the Lamba Ness peninsula on the island of Unst, the spaceport will host up to three launch pads and three integration hangars, each for shared or exclusive use.
The new SaxaVord UK spaceport has been designed to host a wide variety of launch missions on rockets with payloads of up to 1.5 tonnes. Shetland has a long history of serving and supplying complex industries such as oil & gas with sophisticated engineering needs and excellent logistics, and looks well-placed to capture a proportion of the European market. Subject to definitive agreements and regulatory approvals, SaxaVord Spaceport rocket launches are expected to begin in 2023.
“Without belief a vision cannot be realised and without persistence a vision will fail. We believed and we persisted, and our vision is now reality. SaxaVord is the UK’s Pathfinder Space Port,” said SaxaVord UK CEO Frank Strang, “this agreement between SaxaVord Spaceport and Astra is great news for Shetland and represents another step towards our shared ambition of bringing vertical launch satellite capacity to Scotland.”
In Forres in Scotland Orbex unveiled the first of a new generation of launch vehicles designed to propel the new generation ‘micro-satellites’ into orbit. The company claims this will represent the first ever vertical rocket launch to orbit from UK soil. It is scheduled to take place at a new test facility in Kinloss, Scotland. Orbex´s Prime rocket is the first ‘micro-launcher’ developed in Europe to reach this stage of technical readiness, says the company. “Companies like these are vital to achieving the aims of our National Strategy for Economic Transformation that will support a nation of entrepreneurs and innovators in areas like small satellite technology and Scotland’s growing space industry,” said Ivan McKee, Scottish Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise.
The EU has reported that its Galileo Sat-Nav Project is now 73% complete, 28 years after initiation in 1994 and 15 years past its original deadline for completion. The UK was a major funder and provider of technical expertise but its involvement has been affected by withdrawal from the EU. To data no Galileo launches have taken place from European soil.
According to the UK Government, there are now 1,293 space organisations located across the UK (including Northern Ireland), with Scotland responsible for around one fifth of the entire UK space workforce. Spaceports in Scotland, Wales and England are expected to generate more jobs in the coming years, alongside the growth of regional space clusters, international investment, and emerging technologies such as in-space manufacturing and debris removal.