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Space / Government funding to help spaceports go carbon-neutral

HyImpulse have been carrying out propulsion tests at Scatsta Airport for many years. Photo: HyImpulse

A GERMAN rocket launch company, based in Scotland, is to receive £3.4 million of UK Government funding to undertake a hybrid propulsion test programme ahead of the proposed launch of its launch vehicle from the SaxaVord Spaceport.

The spaceport, under construction at the northeast corner of Unst, is expected to receive its operating licence from the Civil Aviation Authority soon.

The funding is part of over £6 million if investment from the UK Space Agency contributions to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Boost! Programme that has been split between HyImpulse and Orbex, which is working with Sutherland Spaceport on the A’ Mhòine peninsula.

The money will be 50 per cent match funded from company sources.

HyImpulse’s test programme is for the launch of its SL1 launch vehicle, which aims to transport satellites with a payload of up to 500kg into a dedicated Earth orbit.

It is larger than the suborbital rocket which the company recently announced would be given its first launch in Australia rather than Unst.

By 2030 HyImpulse aims to achieve carbon neutral operations including the use of synthesised paraffin fuel and renewable energy sources.

As a result of the funding, the government said the company will establish a new UK-based joint venture called Carbon Launch Systems, to manufacture carbon fibre liquid oxygen tanks.

HyImpulse anticipates that its UK operations will support up to 200 direct jobs in Scotland and a further 1,500 across the wider UK supply chain including in Shetland and at the spaceport.

The company’s chief executive Christian Schmierer said: “Commencing this next phase of orbital launch vehicle development, launching our first sounding rocket demonstrator and rapidly expanding our UK operation are very significant milestones for 2024.

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“We have a long history of working with SaxaVord and conducting our motor testing in Shetland and look forward to this next phase of that relationship.”

Meanwhile, Orbex, an orbital launch services company based in Forres, will receive over £3.3 million to undertake activities to ensure it is environmentally sustainable.

This will include activities to install a green propellant plant to manufacture a clean propane produced from renewable feedstocks such as plant and vegetable waste material which will be used on-site.

Sutherland Spaceport aims to be the first carbon-neutral spaceport in the world, both in its construction and operation.

Director of launch at the UK Space Agency Matt Archer said: “Our investment in both Orbex and HyImpulse demonstrates our continued commitment to make the UK Europe’s leading destination for launch by encouraging the development of launch companies.

“These contracts will help Orbex to develop the launch site at Sutherland Spaceport and HyImpulse to prepare for their first launch from SaxaVord Spaceport, enhancing our launch capability, creating high skilled jobs and supporting the Government’s vision for the UK to be Europe’s most attractive launch destination by 2030.”

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