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News / Space industry an ‘immense opportunity’ for Shetland

The remote Lamba Ness peninsula is being turned into a space port. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

THE UK’s first vertical rocket launch, likely to take off from Saxa Vord in Shetland later this year, will be a game changer for the entire space sector.

That’s the view of  Yvette Hopkins, one of six ‘global Scots’ who have just been appointed to the Scotland International Space Advisory Committee (SISAC).

She said the fact that SaxaVord Spaceport is leading the charge to host the first vertical launch was an “immense opportunity” for the isles.

Yvette Hopkins.

Over the last four years Hopkins, who lives in Bigton and is a retired intelligence officer with the US Army, has played a vital role in developing the SaxaVord Spaceport project.

She retired from the post last year to focus on other interests such as promoting women into leadership roles.

Speaking to Shetland News earlier this week she said the arrival of the space industry would be transformative for the isles.

“The first vertical launch will be here in Shetland, and it is absolutely critical for the entire space-based economy not only in Shetland but Scotland and the UK,” she said.

“And we have to thank Frank [Strang, SaxaVord CEO] as he shows us how it can be done. He is leading the charge, so I am very proud of what SaxaVord is doing.

“Space companies will come to Shetland because of SaxaVord. They will stay here because of Saxa, and it is important for Shetlanders to understand that this is real, and that they can be part of it.

“An immense opportunity not only for Shetland, but clearly for Scotland, to draw up industry, to draw up academia, to draw up research.”

Hopkins is now joining five other global Scots on the newly formed SISAC committee. By using the worldwide network, they hope to help attract support and inward investment for the fledging space industry.

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There are already more than 130 space companies based in Scotland, many linked to university research, she said.

“Scotland has an incredible opportunity here in terms of Glasgow having the largest number of producers of satellites outside of California, and Edinburgh with its innovation strategy,” she said.

“The missing link has always been the spaceports but there are now five of them in Scotland at difference stage of development.”

Hopkins said she had been invited to join the SISAC group to help make those worldwide connections and to assist in Scotland’s ambition to become one of Europe’s leading space nations.

Business minister Ivan McKee said: “The space sector is a key opportunity for the future, and we will continue to build on our strengths. The expertise and insight offered by the members of SISAC will be hugely beneficial to our progress.”

The other SISAC members are:

  • Joanna Peters (chair) CEO of StratConGlobal, in Colorado, New York;
  • Professor David Alexander OBE, director of the Rice Space Institute, Rice University, Houston, Texas;
  • Fraser Dalgleish, now retired senior scientist, L3Harris COL (ret’d), from Melbourne, Florida;
  • Waseem Naqvi, director of Satellites, Sensors UAM, Raytheon Intelligence and Space CTO Unmanned Systems, Boston, Massachusetts;
  • Angela Mattis, CEO of ThinkTankMaths in Edinburgh.

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