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.”

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Goldilocks
Goldilocks
8 days ago

Hopefully we can design and build some of our own reconnaissance satellite. Then we can stop relaying on the US for data – not that that is a bad thing

David Young
David Young
8 days ago
Reply to  Goldilocks

We do that already, UK is a big satellite builder

MikeB1947
MikeB1947
5 days ago
Reply to  David Young

But, generally, we will still have to rely upon US-owned/designed rockets and launched by American personnel. Perhaps someday, however, a British company might design and build a launch vehicle but, in that respect, I won’t hold my breath.

Raymond Heap
Raymond Heap
3 days ago
Reply to  MikeB1947

We already had them in the sixties, read up on the “lipstick” rocket.
Cancelled because it was much cheaper to use American hardware and I very much doubt that much has changed.

MikeB1947
MikeB1947
13 minutes ago
Reply to  Raymond Heap

Yes, Black Arrow was cancelled because, until Ariane came along, the Americans offered a good deal.

FieldLander
FieldLander
8 days ago

How many launches to orbit have ABL Space completed?

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
8 days ago
Reply to  FieldLander

None. First launch was planned for June (delayed from March). Now saying late 2021, running out of time there mind. LM seem to have committed to it big time mind, a contract for 50 odd launches I believe. It’s proudly American in case anyone wanted to know.

Last edited 8 days ago by Spyinthesky
FiedLander
FiedLander
7 days ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

Thanks. I knew the answer. Just another startup after publicity and pushing old throw away technology despite use of innovative production techniques.

MagneticFlux
MagneticFlux
7 days ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

All the staff will be American as well because it’s an ITAR/FAA controlled rocket. So not a lot of jobs on Unst for locals, just another US airbase. Also not clear how many rockets will be launched, a lot of bluster from the owners.

MagneticFlux
MagneticFlux
5 days ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

Still no FAA launch licence for ABL, so they won’t be launching any time soon:

https://www.faa.gov/data_research/commercial_space_data/licenses/

James
James
8 days ago

Cornwall spaceport is advancing its plans to be first spaceport that has horizontal take off in a plane like modes with Virgin Orbit and Virgin Galactic flying from there . The UK space sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK, and the UK is a leader in Europe when it comes to space tech

magwitch
magwitch
7 days ago
Reply to  James

What? How is the UK the leader in Europe in space? Ariane have launched over 850 satellites!

DMJ
DMJ
5 days ago
Reply to  magwitch

He said ‘a’ leader which is fair enough.
Mind you, British politicians wrecked UK launch rocket progress back in the 1960s.
I believe we hold the putty medal for being the only country to develop its own orbital launch and satellite capacity, only to give it up.

Mark Diggle CEng
Mark Diggle CEng
5 days ago
Reply to  James

Hurrah. The most sensible reliable and cost effective solution. The next thing to do is avoid the almost inevitable US ITAR entanglement. UK certainly has capability to design, prepare & certify drop aircraft at home.

AlexS
AlexS
3 days ago
Reply to  James

and the UK is a leader in Europe when it comes to space tech

Leader?
You have France(Ariane+Sat), Italy(Vega+Sat) , Russia(manys) in front.

MikeB1947
MikeB1947
19 seconds ago
Reply to  James

Indeed, the UK has a great reputation for designing and building satellites but my hope is that, at some point, we may see a future British deep-space probe. Perhaps “Beagle 3”!

reg81
reg81
8 days ago

“It should be noted that the first British satellite, Ariel 1, was launched in 1962 but from Australia.” – This is incorrect. Ariel 1 *was* the first British satellite and was launched in 1962, but was launched in the USA aboard an American rocket. You’re probably getting it mixed up with Prospero, which was the first British satellite launched about a British (Black Arrow) rocket, in 1971 from Australia.

DRS
DRS
8 days ago

Does seem to take ages we have been talking about this for years now. How long does it take to put some concrete down and build a few sheds onsite for assembly? I presume these rockets come with their own launch set up or will we see a shared gantry/launch system?

Trevor
Trevor
7 days ago
Reply to  DRS

Part of the problem in Unst is that the space port site is also the site of a WW2 radar station (part of Chain Home) which still contains various concrete ruins which are now a Scheduled Monument, so are protected as of national importance. Nobody seemed to realise this at the time of the earlier announcements.

Bloke down the pub
Bloke down the pub
8 days ago

Hopefully, by the time of the launch, they’ll have learnt which way up the Union Flag is flown.

Wayne John Faulkner
Wayne John Faulkner
7 days ago

Yup, first thing I noticed, they must be in distress.

Ryan Brewis
Ryan Brewis
6 days ago

You’re joking.
They didn’t, surely? They can’t have screwed that up?

Sooty
Sooty
8 days ago

Aerial 1 was launched from Cape Canaveral. The only wholly UK satellite launch was from Australia in 1971 (Black Arrow/Prospero)

Mark Forsyth
Mark Forsyth
8 days ago

For those with a bit of an interest,see below in regards to the original UK based test site. Like the TSR2, we seem to be i the habit of being up in the forefront of new technologies, and then cancelling them
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Down_Rocket_Test_Site
https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the-needles-old-battery-and-new-battery/features/into-the-space-age-at-the-needles-new-battery

Jack ballson
Jack ballson
8 days ago

They should build a vertical lauch site in Scotland or in the peak district of the UK.

Expat
Expat
7 days ago
Last edited 7 days ago by Expat
MikeB1947
MikeB1947
5 days ago
Reply to  Expat

Let’s hope that Pulsar Fusion succeeds as a prosperous British company and can supply their rocket engines to NASA and other US companies, without falling under American ownership.

Tim Hirst
Tim Hirst
7 days ago

Well at least the storyline isn’t about the two Scottish launch sites trying to do each other down as is has been in the past.

Mark Diggle CEng
Mark Diggle CEng
5 days ago

I have difficulty with all this following the original intent to “develop” “UK” capabilities; we are off on a tangent now.
I also have difficulty with the location(s). I have travelled & walked in the region. Weather and logistics will seriously limit the launch options, which is very expensive. I fear this will all end up a costly fudge.
The obvious engineering solution for small scale UK launch is clearly air drop. Am I the only one with that view?