Western Europe’s first vertical spaceport has been cleared for launch and hopes to see rockets flying in 2024

By | December 19, 2023

The SaxaVord spaceport in the Shetland Islands off the north coast of Scotland has officially become Western Europe’s first recognized spaceport capable of vertically launching rockets.

SaxaVord, located on Unst, the northernmost island of the Shetland archipelago, received a license from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Sunday 17 December. Although no launch date has been announced yet, the CAA said in a statement that the license “paves the way for missile launches on British soil from 2024.”

SaxaVord, one of two competing launch sites in Scotland, has partnerships with several small-scale development companies satellite launch vehicles, including Britain-based Skyrora, Germany-based HyImpulse and Augsburg Rocket Company, and U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.

Related: Europe’s first continental spaceport has opened in Norway

Skyrora, whose suborbital Skylark L rocket failed during a debut test flight in Iceland in December 2022 welcomed the new announcement. In an emailed statement, the company said it had previously applied for a CAA license to operate its vehicles from Britain and was awaiting the outcome.

“Two other licenses must be granted to separate entities before a launch can take place fully within the regulations: the Range Operator License and the Launching License,” Alan Thompson, Skyrora’s head of government affairs, said in the statement. “Skyrora has a live Launch License application under review and we eagerly look forward to approval being granted in early 2024 to conduct a launch at SaxaVord in the summer.”

Rocket Company Augsburg also expects to give its first performance orbital flight of SaxaVord next year, according to previous reports Space News. Recently her compatriot HyImpulse received £3.4 million from the UK Space Agency to fund testing of its hybrid propulsion rocket at the Shetland site and plans to launch a suborbital test rocket from Australia in early 2024.

SaxaVord is one of three UK launch sites vying to become Europe’s leading space centre. The Sutherland Spaceport, located on Scotland’s north coast, about 420 kilometers southwest of SaxaVord, is still awaiting a permit. But this site, located on the picturesque A’ Mhòine Peninsula, appears to have lost traction with rocket companies as it has struck just one major partnership: with Britain-based Orbex, which is developing its biofuel Prime launch vehicle in nearby Forres.

Britain has another licensed spaceport – Newquay in Cornwall – where the failed launch attempt took place Virgin job last year. Although the company has been converted Boeing 747 successfully lifted off from Newquay runway in January 2023 with the Launcher One micro-rocket on board, but that launcher failed shortly after being released from the aircraft carrier.

Because Virgin Orbit has since filed for bankruptcy, there are currently no plans to fly rockets from Cornwall, which can only support horizontal launches, meaning rockets are launched from aircraft after being carried to high altitudes under the wings.

SaxaVord could therefore offer the long-awaited repeat of the first British rocket flight. Despite the Virgin Orbit problem, the British government has not soured on rocket flights and recently published a report lessons learned report which details the major issues that led to the failure of Virgin Orbit.

In a webinar accompanying the release of the report, Colin MacLeod, head of UK space regulation at the CAA, said nine rocket companies have submitted license applications to the authority and are awaiting decisions, according to Space News.

Related stories:

– Northern Lights (aurora borealis): what they are and how to see them

– A spaceport startup launched the first rocket from a floating launch pad in U.S. waters

— The Nova Scotia spaceport project aims to launch cleantech rockets

Thanks to the SaxaVord license, the spaceport can organize up to 30 launches per year. The United Kingdom, which has a strong small satellite manufacturing industry, hopes that the ease of launching a British-made satellite from a British port on possibly a British-made rocket would be an advantage to SaxaVord and its counterparts can give to customers compared to other countries. their foreign competitors.

“The award of SaxaVord’s spaceport license by the UK Civil Aviation Authority is a hugely exciting milestone as we look forward to the first vertical launches from UK soil in the coming year,” said Matt Archer, Launch Director, UK Space Agency at the CAA . rack. “Reaching this stage is a testament to the hard work of SaxaVord Spaceport and partners across government, leading us to achieve our ambitions for Britain to be the leading provider of small satellite launches in Europe by 2030.”

The British government had originally announced plans to build spaceports in Britain in 2014. Four years later, Sutherland, SaxaVord and Cornwall received funding to get rockets off the ground. But since then, competition in Europe has increased. In October 2023, Spanish rocket startup PLD Space successfully launched its suborbital Miura 1 rocket from Huelva in southwestern Spain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *