Rocket launch

German deal puts Shetland back in space race

The launch stool at Launchpad Fredo on Lamba Ness, Unst

Shetland is back in the race to launch Britain’s first satellites into space after the SaxaVord spaceport signed a deal with a German rocket company.

Following the failure of Monday night’s space mission from Cornwall, the Shetland Islands is keen to progress its own plans to launch by the end of this year.

It is designing Britain’s first “vertical” spaceport, where rockets will blast off directly from a launchpad on the ground rather than from beneath the wing of an aircraft.

Spaceport Cornwall, based at Newquay airport, hosted the Virgin Orbit jumbo jet launch but the mission to launch nine satellites into orbit failed because of a malfunction in the engine.

SaxaVord Spaceport is based at Lamba Ness in Unst, the most northerly point in the British Isles and the deal between SaxaVord and Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA), based near Munich, will see a mission to launch a satellite 310 miles above the Earth. Another mission, Lockheed Martin’s Pathfinder project, could also lift off from Shetland this year.

Another site, the Sutherland Spaceport on the north coast of Scotland, is also working towards a first launch.

Applications for the UK Space Agency Accelerator open today with three levels of intensive business growth support to choose from, each designed to boost the success of entrepreneurs within, or looking to grow into, the UK’s vibrant space sector.  

The UK Space Agency is investing just under £1.5 million in its business support programme, the UK Space Agency Accelerator, which is managed and delivered by Entrepreneurial Spark and Exotopic, who were appointed following a competitive tendering process.

Following on from a successful pilot in 2021, this two-year rolling programme is expected to see 180 entrepreneurs’ ideas given a business boost with specialist coaching, network opportunities and business support to get their interstellar ideas investment ready.  

Like-minded entrepreneurs will also be able to pitch ideas, share best practice and celebrate successes in person at Trajectory events taking place across the country.

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