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Business / Unst space centre nets multi-million pound investment

The space centre at Lamba Nessin Unst is expected to create hundreds of jobs in Shetland and further afield. Image: Shetland Space Centre

PRIVATE equity firm Leonne International has confirmed it is to invest over £2 million in Shetland Space Centre (SSC), which plans to build and operate a vertical satellite launch facility in Unst.

The cash injection will give the multinational investment firm a 20 per cent stake in the company that seeks to create revenue from an integrated business model that includes the launch of satellites, operating a ground station but also attracting space tourism to Shetland.

The investment from an internationally operating equity firm was warmly welcomed by SSC’s managing director Frank Strang.

“Mike Haston [CEO of Leonne International] and his team at Leonne International bring tremendous enthusiasm, drive and belief to the business which will turbo charge an already dynamic and fast moving project,” Strang said.

He added that the investment enabled the project to proceed with the first stages of gaining the necessary permissions and licences required to operate the facility, as well as to get on with building the launch site and ground station.

“Furthermore, the funding validates what we and, crucially, the wider space industry has been saying for several years now – that Shetland is absolutely the right location for kick-starting the UK’s entry into this rapidly growing market,” Strang said.

Haston said he was convinced that with the help of Shetland Space Centre the local space economy would become a valuable asset to the UK.

“We are always excited to partner with firms which exhibit ambition, innovation and excitement, and Shetland Space Centre exceeds this criteria with the plans they have in place for their satellite launch programme,” he said.

Local councillor Ryan Thomson described the move as “yet more positive news coming from the Shetland Space Centre both for Unst and the Shetland”.

He said the investment would help to establish Unst as the UK’s hub for a satellite launch facility.

“These are exciting times for Unst, and I look forward to working closely with the Shetland Space Centre to do anything we can to maximise the potential for not just Unst, but for Shetland as a whole. Well done to all involved for reaching yet another very important milestone,” he added.

The council’s chairman of the development committee, Alastair Cooper, described the announcement as “positive news”.

“The council is committed to supporting local economic opportunities and we hope to maximise the benefit for Unst and Shetland as this project develops. With a wealth of industrial experience in Shetland, there is great potential for the existing business sector to help this pioneering space industry to grow,” he said.

Ever since the idea for building a satellite launching facility near to the former air force camp at Saxa Vord first hit local and national headlines in 2018, SSC has been developing its plans and collaborating with space industry giants such as Lockheed Martin, Aecom and ArianeGroup.

They also have been working with industry newcomers such as Rocket Factory Augsburg, Raptor Aerospace, B2Space and C6, as well as Scottish Enterprise, Strathclyde and Edinburgh universities and the Technical University of Munich, in Germany.

SSC said it had support from within the island community as well as a proactive and supportive relationship with the local authority, Shetland Islands Council.

The company added that it did not anticipate any major environmental issues as it intended to create an international exemplar by developing a green space centre and showcasing that space and its numerous applications are a ‘force for good’.