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Weather / Weather station planned for spaceport as launch preparations continue

The SaxaVord space port is expected to host the first vertical satellite launching the UK late in 2022. Image: Rory Gillies for SaxaVord (UK) Spaceport

A WEATHER station is set to be installed in Unst with the help of the Met Office to allow SaxaVord Spaceport staff to gauge conditions for future launches.

The Met Office will advise on the most appropriate equipment and best location at Lamba Ness, which is where the launches will take place from.

It is part of a wider contract between the spaceport and the Met Office and parameters included in forecasts will help the launch director make go/no-go decisions depending on weather conditions.

Saxa will also have the option of remote or on-site consultancy from a trained Met Office operational meteorologist for launch days, providing up-to-the-minute advice on current and predicted weather conditions.

Post-launch Met data analysis will be available to help the launch operator understand how their launch vehicle performed.

The spaceport has yet to receive planning permission but it is understood the application will come in front of councillors on the local authority’s planning committee later this month.

Scottish ministers must be notified if the council is minded to grant planning permission, and there will be a 28-day period before consent is formally approved.

This direction does not commit Scottish ministers to calling in an application, but it does reserve their right to intervene.

SaxaVord UK Spaceport range officer Jimmy Slaughter said regarding the weather station development: “This contract marks the end of long and detailed discussions between SaxaVord Spaceport and the Met Office on what bespoke spaceport weather services could and should look like.

“It also marks the beginning of what we hope will be a long and fruitful relationship in which both organisations grow and learn from each other as we develop orbital launch services from the UK.”

Simon Marshall, Met Office key account manager, said: “This is an exciting time for the UK Space industry and we are delighted Saxa have chosen to work with us to help make better decisions to stay safe and thrive.

“As a leading Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) and space weather prediction centre we are well placed to support Saxa not only on launch days, but in the days and weeks leading up to launches.”

Director of commercial spaceflight at the UK Space Agency Matt Archer said: “Accurate weather monitoring plays a vital role in ensuring the safety and reliability of space launch activities, just as it does for aircraft and airports.”