Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Space / Countdown for first satellite launch under way

CONSTRUCTION of the UK’s first vertical spaceport, on the island of Unst, is set to get under way in late March after it received planning approval from the local planning authority on Friday.

The approval provides Scottish Ministers with a 28-day window to review the application by SaxaVord UK Spaceport.

Should Scottish Ministers choose not to call the application in for review, construction of the £43m spaceport could begin around the 28 March.

The privately-funded spaceport will consist of three launchpads at the Lamba Ness peninsula allowing for the launch of small satellites into either polar or sun-synchronous, low-earth orbits. 

With the ambition of achieving 30 launch events per year, the site will support launches by a range of launch service providers (LSPs) supporting industries and services including telecommunications, media, weather and defence.

SaxaVord (UK) Spaceport chief executive Frank Strang. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

Despite delays in achieving planning consent, the target of delivering the first orbital launch from UK soil is still set for the end of the year.

Longer-term, the spaceport is projected to be the catalyst to significant social and economic benefits to Unst in particular, and more widely across Shetland in terms of inward investment and job creation.

SaxaVord’s chief executive rank Strang said that the Unst spaceport is set toplay an instrumental part in establishing the UK as the European hub for commercial spaceflight.

“We have been working on bringing the space economy to Shetland for five years, so it is fantastic that the economic benefits are already being felt,” he said.

“To date, we have teamed up with established Shetland companies, such as Sandisons and Ocean Kinetics, as well as emerging local organisations, created by Unst residents who wish to support our exciting project. 

“We will spend upwards of £43m over the next 18 months, rising to £100m in the next five years. We have already started blasting and crushing stone and are seeking to clarify the conditions imposed on the development by HES, SIC and others as soon as possible.

“Our team will collectively do everything in its power to ensure we can deliver this historic mission for Shetland, Scotland, and the UK.”

Strang added that the SaxaVord Spaceport team had received a tremendous amount of support from the people of Unst, and without that support would have struggled to maintain momentum.

“In many ways, it has been humbling for us all. I would like to thank everyone involved for their patience and belief in what we are delivering,” Strang continued.

“Lastly, space is a global business, and we at SaxaVord are working with clients from all over the world to achieve this.

“Only the other week, with the Under Secretary of State for Scotland, we hosted several engineers from Edinburgh-based launch company Skyrora, who are committed to launching from our site on Shetland in the next few years.

“Although Scottish domiciled, their roots are very much in Ukraine. I would like to express our very best wishes and support to all their staff and families who are now caught up in the dreadful events in Ukraine following the senseless Russian invasion of their homeland.”