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Space / Preparations continue for spaceport ‘dress rehearsal’

The practice launch will take place at Lamba Ness, which is currently being prepared for the spaceport's construction. Photo: SaxaVord Spaceport

MORE details have been released about a “dress rehearsal” at SaxaVord Spaceport which will culminate in a small rocket being launched later this year.

The launch – called Operation Freya – will take place from a portable launch pad system at Lamba Ness in Unst.

The site is currently being prepared for construction.

The purpose of the rehearsal – scheduled for early July – is to allow the SaxaVord operational team to “simulate, practice and evaluate all the processes and procedures required for the much bigger launch vehicle required to reach orbit later this year”.

The rocket, which will be less than three metres tall, will reach 12,000ft before it makes its descent.

As it does so, a small parachute will be deployed, and the rocket will splash down into the sea.

To guarantee the launch process will be as realistic as possible, SaxaVord is involving all parties who are preparing for the first commercial launch later this year.

The spaceport team said that to ensure every aspect is rehearsed correctly, the simulation will “cover vehicle tracking, airspace and maritime safety and clearance methods, as well as practicing how best to recover payloads from the sea”.

With a focus on carrying out checks on all safety procedures, SaxaVord Spaceport will engage with a wide range of authorities, including Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, NHS Scotland, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Marine Scotland, Shetland Islands Council, Unst Community Council and local crofters and landowners.

Local company Ocean Kinetics will also be involved in the recovery of the rocket.

Marine users will be notified through the Admiralty and airspace users will be informed via the NOTAM process.

SaxaVord Spaceport CEO Frank Strang said: “This exercise will mark another exciting step in SaxaVord and Shetland’s journey towards becoming the home of the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport.”

Jimmy Slaughter, range operations manager, added: “Ensuring the safety of all launches is a top priority, and we are grateful to all the relevant authorities for helping us do so.

“It’s fantastic that the most northerly point of the UK can facilitate the endeavours of companies seeking to work in an industry devoted to the final frontier and we’re dedicated to making a success of this for the United Kingdom.”