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Space / Spaceport clears final hurdle to become fully operational

Photo: Shetland News

SAXAVORD has become Western Europe’s only fully licenced vertical launch spaceport after having been granted a range control licence by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

A range licence is a legal requirement ahead of a space launch but is not in itself permission to launch.

The licence grants SaxaVord permission to clear and control the downrange zone during launches.

The regulator’s latest licence for SaxaVord means it can issue warning notices to keep people out of hazardous areas, perform surveillance of those areas, and monitor the progress of rockets in flight.

The announcement today (Thursday) follows the granting of a spaceport licence by the CAA to SaxaVord in December 2023.

Work continues on launch operator licences for the spaceport’s clients.

Meanwhile work continues by one of the spaceport’s clients, German company Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA), who are on site and are preparing for a first test launch in August of this year.

A delighted spaceport chief executive Frank Strang said: “Both awards are historic milestones for ourselves in Shetland and the development of the UK space sector in its entirety.

“This is a vital component in our preparations for launch. Satisfying such a crucial piece of the regulatory process affords everyone the comfort that we will always operate in a safe and proper manner under the watchful eye of the regulator.

“As Western Europe’s only fully licenced vertical launch spaceport, we are now preparing to make more space history with the beginning of orbital launch operations well underway and first launch expected to be in Q3 of this year.”

Head of UK Space Regulation at the CAA, Colin Macleod, said the range licence was vital to protect public safety during launches.

“Our work is enabling the UK’s expanding space sector and encouraging safety, sustainability and security of space activity,” he said.

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Operations at SaxaVord are now being monitored by the CAA to ensure they are meeting the terms of their licence and public safety is protected.



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