UK's first space flight will blast off from Shetlands by end of 2022

UK’s first space flight will blast off from the Shetland Islands by the end of 2022 after £43 MILLION spaceport wins planning permission

  • Shetland Islands Council has given the ambitious project planning permission
  • The Lamba Ness peninsular in Unst will be home to the £43 million spaceport
  • It will feature three launchpads, allowing for the launch of small satellites  

Work is set to begin on the UK’s first commercial spaceport, which will see satellites launched into orbit from the Shetlands by the end of the year after plans won the backing of the local authority.

The Lamba Ness peninsular in Unst will be home to the £43 million spaceport, with builders set to start work in late March, after Shetland Islands Council gave the project planning permission.

Three launchpads will be built at the SaxaVord spaceport, allowing for the launch of small satellites into either polar or sun-synchronous low-Earth orbits.

The company is aiming to launch 30 rockets a year, and has set the target of seeing its first orbital launch from UK soil after the third quarter of this year.

Work is set to begin on the UK’s first commercial spaceport, which will see satellites launched into orbit from the Shetlands by the end of the year after plans won the backing of the local authority 

The UK’s first spaceport 

Cost: £43 million, rising to £100 million in the next five years

Number of launchpads: 3

Other infrastructure: Satellite tracking station, hangars, and other infrastructure needed to support launches

Number of launches: 30/year

Timeline: First orbital launch after the third quarter of this year

SaxaVord Spaceport CEO, Frank Strang, said: ‘We have been working on bringing the space economy to Shetland for five years, so it is fantastic that the economic benefits are already being felt. 

‘To date, we have teamed up with established Shetland companies, such as Sandisons and Ocean Kinetics, as well as emerging local organisations, created by Unst residents who wish to support our exciting project.

‘We will spend upwards of £43m over the next 18 months, rising to £100m in the next five years. 

‘We have already started blasting and crushing stone and are seeking to clarify the conditions imposed on the development by HES, SIC and others as soon as possible.

‘Our team will collectively do everything in its power to ensure we can deliver this historic mission for Shetland, Scotland, and the UK.’ 

After the initial build costs, the company is expected to spend £100 million at the port in the next five years.

Planning permission allows the Scottish Government a 28-day window to review the application, with work set to start on the site once that period has ended.

Scotland is the best place in the UK to reach in-demand satellite orbits with vertically launched rockets – the type many will have seen on television, taking off from places like Florida.

With Shetland being at the highest latitude point in the UK, and one of the highest in Europe, greater payloads can be launched for the same fuel load.

The company behind the spaceport said the launch facility is ‘monumental in supporting the UK’s ambitions of becoming a global science superpower’.

As well as the launchpads, the facility will include a satellite tracking station, hangars, and other infrastructure needed to support launches. 

Mr Strang added that the SaxaVord Spaceport team had received a tremendous amount of support from the people of Unst.

The Lamba Ness peninsular in Unst will be home to the £43 million spaceport, with builders set to start work in late March, after Shetland Islands Council gave the project planning permission 

The launch of the two metre Skylark Nano rocket in June, which reached an altitude of six kilometres, from the mainland of Shetland

‘In many ways, it has been humbling for us all. I would like to thank everyone involved for their patience and belief in what we are delivering,’ he said.

‘Lastly, space is a global business, and we at SaxaVord are working with clients from all over the world to achieve this.

‘Only the other week, with the Under Secretary of State for Scotland, we hosted several engineers from Edinburgh-based launch company Skyrora, who are committed to launching from our site on Shetland in the next few years.

‘Although Scottish domiciled, their roots are very much in Ukraine. 

‘I would like to express our very best wishes and support to all their staff and families who are now caught up in the dreadful events in Ukraine following the senseless Russian invasion of their homeland.’ 

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