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Space / Multi-million pound funding for key client of SaxaVord Spaceport

UK minister for science due to visit Unst on Friday

An image of how a RFA launch could look like in spring next year.

A SATELLITE launch company that is due to use the SaxaVord Spaceport has been awarded £3.5 million of funding from the UK Space Agency.

The funding announcement for Rocket Factory Ltd (RFA UK), a subsidiary of German space travel developer Rocket Factory Augsburg AG, coincides with a ministerial visit to the construction site in Unst.

UK science minister George Freeman is to tour the site at Lamba Ness and meet key members of the project team.

RFA UK will use the funding, which comes as part of the European Space Agency’s Boost! Programme, to develop and operate the infrastructure and test equipment needed to enable it to launch from the spaceport, planned for second quarter of 2024.

The company will have exclusive access to SaxaVord’s ‘Fredo’ launch pad from where it plans to provide regular launches as one of the spaceport’s anchor customers.

Measuring 30 metres tall and two metres wide, the RFA ONE launch rocket is a three-stage launch vehicle capable of deploying up to 1,300kg to a 500km polar orbit.

The latest estimates suggest that around 90 skilled jobs could be created locally when the spaceport reaches full operational capability.

The science minister said the UK’s £17 billion space industry is due to grow fast as the commercial Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite sector is set to expand in the next decade.

“This £3.5 million investment will enable RFA UK to develop the technologies necessary to launch from SaxaVord Spaceport in Scotland, creating dozens of jobs locally and growing the Scottish cluster as a key part of the UK space sector,” minister said.

RFA UK managing director Jörn Spurmann welcomed the support from the UK Space Agency.

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“We are eagerly anticipating our inaugural orbital launch in mainland Europe from the SaxaVord Spaceport on British territory,” he said.

“This event will further cement our position as the pioneers in European commercial spaceflight. At the same time, it demonstrates the unwavering confidence the European Space Agency has in our strategy.”

Other funding provided by the UK Space Agency so far to support launch activities includes £23.4 million in two separate grants to Lockheed Martin to establish launch operations from SaxaVord Spaceport and to build a small launch orbital manoeuvring vehicle in Reading which will launch on Lockheed Martin’s Pathfinder launch from the site.

The spaceport itself however is predominantly privately funded.

Its deputy chief executive Scott Hammond said: “We are delighted that the UK Space Agency has awarded this funding to our client to help them progress towards launch from our site in Unst, the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport.”

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