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Unst station could be vital to Scottish space industry, academic says

SPACEPORTS are the missing piece in the jigsaw that will allow the Scottish space industry to take off – and, as things stand, the country could do with not just one, but at least three such facilities.

That will be one of the topics to be discussed at a series of talks two academics from Edinburgh University and Royal Observatory will give in Shetland next week.

In their talk From Charles Piazzi Smyth to Scottish Spaceport: 200 years of reaching for the stars, PhD student Matjaz (Mat) Vidmar and Dr Alastair Bruce of the school of physics and astronomy at the universality of Edinburgh will highlight the historical role of Scottish astronomers and lead, almost inevitably, to Shetland’s possible future role as one of the locations of a small satellite launch facility.

Speaking ahead of next week’s public engagements, Vidmar said: “From my perspective developing spaceports is significant, because spaceports are the final missing link in closing the whole value chain of small space satellites here in Scotland.

“We have people in Scotland who design and build satellites, we have people here in Scotland who are able to extract the data from the satellites, and we have the people who can use this data to produce useful applications.

“What we are currently missing, and not just in Scotland but in most of Europe, is dedicated small satellite launch capability. Spaceports, Shetland and elsewhere, would be solving that problem.”

He added: “We would like to be the home of what is called ‘agile space’, a loose consortium of relatively small companies that are all able to contribute in the big project.

“So if someone comes along and would like to have a satellite that does x,y and z; it can be built, launched, serviced and the data analysed all in Scotland – and we think that is a unique selling point that distinguished Scotland from many other places around the world.”

Vidmar and Bruce will be speaking at the Shetland Museum & Archives in Lerwick on Monday at 7.30pm, at the Baltasound Junior High School on Wednesday starting at 6.30pm and Sandwick Carnegie Hall on Thursday at 7.30pm.

The visit is sponsored by Shetland Science Outreach group and it also includes a number of visits to local schools.