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Business / Rocket launch project given funding

HIGHLANDS and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has awarded £15,000 to a project which aims to evaluate the suitability of Shetland as a location to launch rockets using air balloons.

Unst test ballon launch. Photo: Shetland Space Centre

Shetland Space Centre (SSC), which wants to create a launch facility on the island of Unst, facilitated tests in July with Bristol firm B2Space in which a large air balloon was deployed at Baltasound.

The funding from HIE will go towards the commercial and technical evaluation of using the system in Shetland.

This includes assessing the current facilities and development plans, while also providing recommendations on how operations might be best hosted at Shetland Space Centre.

HIE senior development manager John MacKenzie said: “This is an ambitious and innovative project by the SSC.

“We are very pleased to be providing support for the commercial and technical evaluation and look forward to the findings of this work.”

After July’s test launch of a balloon – or a rockoon, as they are called – Valentin Canales and Victor Montero, co-founders of B2Space, said:

“We have a large amount of data to analyse, but from what we know already we can confirm that we intend to set up a base here in Unst in preparation for future launches.

“Interest from ESA and the UK Space Agency is huge. We know the technology will work, and this launch was the first step, with many more to come.”