Tuesday 21 May 2024
 7.6°C   ESE Light Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Space / SaxaVord critical to UK’s space race ambitions, minister says

Former UK science minister George Freeman visiting the spaceport site in October. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

THE UK science minister said he cannot wait to come back to Shetland to witness the first rocket launch from the SaxaVord Spaceport, likely to happen next year.

Overlooking the Lamba Ness site from a very windy Norwick viewpoint on Friday morning, George Freeman MP said the spaceport in Unst was critical to the UK space economy.

The minister was in Shetland on Friday to announce £3.5m of funding for Rocket Factory Ltd, and to meet the team behind the spaceport.

“I think what is going on here is key to the UK’s ability to show the world that we are a player in this new market,” Freeman told Shetland News.

“Our strategy is to support the companies that will do launches, so here at SaxaVord the message we heard very loudly from the team is that they are building the ‘Heathrow’ airport for an industry that will be running satellite operations.

“And what they want us to do is create the conditions in which these satellite operators can flourish.

“That’s our strategy and that’s why today’s announcement of £3.5m for Rocket Factory Ltd, the first company to launch here, is so important.”

Freeman described the emerging space sector as “fundamental to the science and technology race”, adding that it had “the potential to grow exponentially over the next few years”.

He said the UK was not attempting to build a publicly owned space sector but wanted “this to be a commercial, sustainable private sector operation”.

The MP added: “But we are very open to speak to Saxa about what they need to succeed.”

Freeman said he was not in a position to give any assurances about the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) licence the spaceport requires to operate.

He made the point that the CAA was independent but noted that the authority was applauded by the industry as it had moved quickly to licence the spaceport in Cornwall.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


“So, I am excited about SaxaVord getting its licence and then RFA launching here as soon as they can. They said today that they would have a rocket here within a year,” Freeman said.

While at SaxaVord the minister and his team also met with representatives from the council who used the opportunity to lobby the government on the quest for better connectivity and vital investment in fixed links infrastructure.

Acknowledging that it was “quite a journey” to get to the spaceport, he said: “I have no doubts that over coming years we will see a growing recognition that we are going to need tunnels, we are going to need better integrated infrastructure.

“This will become a leading European launch site and we need to make sure we can get satellites into the launch site by lorry, on good quality roads and at a volume which can be globally commercial.”

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.