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Business / First rocket launched from Shetland soil

Edinburgh based Skyrora chooses Shetland for third launch of the company’s test rocket

THE REMOTE Fethaland peninsular in the north mainland witnessed history in the making on Saturday when Shetland’s first ever suborbital rocket launch was successfully conducted.

Edinburgh based Skyrora, one of the many developers of in the UK’s space race, had chosen Shetland for its third test run of the company’s two metre Skylark Nano rocket.

Skyrora plans to launch from one of the three proposed spaceports in Scotland and commercially launching from Shetland in the future is a potential option for the company.

Reaching an altitude of six kilometres, the launch was completed for educational purposes, the company said, collecting meteorological data, measuring wind profiles, analysing the vehicle’s trajectory and providing critical training in support of future plans.

Skyrora’s head of launch Robin Hague said the successful launch signified a vital step towards the company’s ambitions to become the UK’s ‘go-to’ satellite launch provider.

“We’re ecstatic and truly proud. This is a great success for Skylark Nano, and the Skyrora team in general,” he said.

“Launching from Shetland is very important for us because it’s a potential option for our Skyrora XL orbital commercial launch vehicle. To understand the local launch conditions learning more about the wind profiles in Shetland is critical.”

Chief executive Volodymyr Levykin added: “With this successful launch from Shetland we are further closing the gap to making the UK a rocket launching nation again.

“For Skyrora this test was all about learning and training. The innovation at Skyrora is enormous, not only are we producing high quality results, but we are doing so with minimum impact to the environment as we strive to develop eco-friendly technology in our launches.”

Skylark Nano’s first launch took place in Ross-shire in summer 2018, with the firm continuing to develop cutting-edge research and technology ahead of its first planned commercial orbital launches.

Expanding their company across Scotland, the company aims to 170 jobs by the end of 2023.

The company looks to cater for the growing demand for sending commercial satellites into space.

With the space sector recognised as critical national infrastructure (CNI) the company was able to travel to Shetland during lockdown while significant restrictions on travel are in place.

“Skyrora and its staff observe all applicable guidance and regulatory requirements in all operations, and for this particular test permission was sought, and obtained, from the council,” a company spokeswoman said.

The successful launch was welcomed Shetland Space Centre, the company which hopes to build a satellite launch facility at Lambaness in Unst.

Chief executive Frank Strang said: “We are very close to Skyrora and have a memorandum of understanding with them to launch from Lambaness when the site secures planning and a licence.

“We are incorporating their requirements into our design and planning requirement.”