Lockheed Martin has brought a team of senior leaders to the site of the new SaxaVord Spaceport alongside representatives of their rocket technology partner – ABL Space – to progress its plans for northern Europe’s first vertical satellite launch, known as ‘UK Pathfinder Launch’, taking place next year.
It should be noted that the first British satellite, Ariel 1, was launched in 1962 but from Australia. This launch will take place in the United Kingdom itself.
During the visit representatives from ABL Space have been conducting site surveys ahead of plans to use their new RS1 rocket and flexible, integrated GS0 launch system, which allows for rapid and cost-effective deployment with outstanding launch performance.
Nik Smith, UK and Europe regional director for Lockheed Martin said in a news release:
“Being able to bring our launch partners, ABL Space together with the SaxaVord Spaceport team, alongside our colleagues at the UK Space Agency demonstrates that we continue to make exciting progress towards achieving the first vertical satellite launch in northern Europe in 2022. Not only will this launch capability stimulate prosperity in the region and across the UK, but it also marks an important step in achieving the ambitions of the new National Space Strategy.”
Recently the UK government announced its National Space Strategy which sets out the UK government’s long-term vision to make the UK “one of the most attractive and innovative space economies in the world”.
Kelmend Kavaja, Spaceflight Grants Manager at the UK Space Agency, was quoted as saying:
“We are working closely with national and international partners to bring the first satellite launches to the UK in 2022, deliver on the National Space Strategy and create hundreds of new jobs. It’s great to see the SaxaVord Spaceport, Lockheed Martin and ABL Space advancing their plans to deliver sustainable, commercial spaceflight operations from the Shetland Islands.”
The builders say that the SaxaVord launch facility will eventually create circa 140 jobs in Unst and inject at least £4.9m per annum into the island’s economy. It will provide a further 70 jobs throughout Shetland, adding a further £2.9m in gross value to the economy.
Frank Strang, CEO of SaxaVord Spaceport, said:
“We’re delighted to welcome ABL to Unst for the first time and to welcome back Lockheed Martin as we gear up for the UK Pathfinder launch next year. The project has real momentum now and these engagements are a vital part of our preparation for delivering the UK’s first vertical satellite launch.”
Dan Piemont, President and co-founder of ABL Space, said:
“ABL is unique in our ability to deliver new launch capabilities rapidly and on-demand. After delivering RS1 and GS0 to Unst next year, we’ll be able to launch up to a tonne of satellites at a time from UK soil, accommodating everything from scientific cubesats to larger commercial satellites. We’re grateful for the opportunity to play this enabling role in the UK space industry, and hope to carry forward the momentum from this Pathfinder launch into the years ahead.”