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Business / Funding announced to enable satellite test launch in 2022

Skyrora's Skylark Nano rocket launch from Fethaland, in June last year. Photo: Skyrora.

AN EDINBURGH space company which became the first to launch a suborbital rocket from Shetland last summer has received £2.5 million of public money to develop its small satellite launch technology.

The funding comes as part of the European Space Agency’s Boost! Initiative and it will help Skyrora to complete the development of its Skyrora XL launch vehicle which will carry small satellites into orbit.

The company said the vehicle was on course to be test-launched in 2022 from a UK spaceport.

Asked whether this could be from the planned space centre on the island of Unst, the company’s project manager Katie Miller said she was not in a position to confirm or deny.

“The team at Shetland Space Centre were one of the first to offer their congratulations to us upon award of the funding,” she added.

“Skyrora has a good relationship with Shetland and we are currently continuing discussions over future launches from the site.”

A large and complex planning application for the Shetland Space Centre at Lamba Ness has been lodged with the local planning authority, and is receiving comments from many interested parties, both for and against the project.

According to a statement from the office of the secretary of state for Scotland the Skyrora funding will contribute to the creation of an additional 170 jobs directly within the company and will also trigger onward job creation across the UK’s space, manufacturing and engineering sectors.

The company’s chief executive Volodymyr Levykin said: “Skyrora has already delivered four launches, established manufacturing and engine test facilities throughout Scotland and performed the static fire test of our orbital third stage.

“Furthermore, our pioneering work to achieve environmentally friendly spaceflight, such as our eco-fuel, will help establish the UK not only as a world leader in space technology but also the greenest space industry in the world.

Meanwhile, Forres based space company Orbex has received £6 million from the same pot of money to support the development of its Prime launch vehicle which will launch small satellites into orbit from the planned space hub in Sutherland in 2023.

Deputy chief executive of the UK Space Agency Ian Annett said: “This funding is great news for the UK space sector and will ensure companies such as Orbex and Skyrora really are at the forefront of the European space industry.”

The UK aims to be the first country in Europe to offer small satellite manufacturers a direct end-to-end route to launch.

Earlier this month, the UK Government published its response to the Spaceflight consultation, paving the way for the UK to install a regulatory and guidance framework to enable commercial small satellite launches from 2022.