Scotland plans dress rehearsal for UK’s first vertical space launch
Dubbed Operation Freya, it will take place in early July from a portable Asgard launch pad system. This will be built on the Lamba Ness peninsula, which is currently being prepared for the spaceport’s construction.
While Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit have recently announced the UK’s first planned satellite launch, the Scottish spaceport is eyeing the prestige of enabling the UK’s first commercial vertical space launch – i.e. a rocket-based launch – sometime in 2023.
“This exercise will mark another exciting step in SaxaVord and Shetland’s journey towards becoming the home of the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport,” said the CEO of the Spaceport, Frank Strang.
The Spaceport is located on Lamba Ness, Unst, which is one of the Shetland Islands. It’s at the locale of Saxa Vord, to be precise, hence the new name.
Vertical space launches
As part of the dress rehearsal announcement, the SaxaVord outlined the shape of future rocket-based launches of satellites.
The rocket, it says, will be less than 3m tall, and will reach 12,000 feet before it makes its descent, when a small parachute will be deployed for the rocket to then splash down into the sea.
Local company Ocean Kinetics will be involved in the recovery of the rocket.
Astra Space, the Californian space launch company, is providing the orbital launch services. It can transport a fully functional launch system to simple concrete pads at the site for launches, which is what is envisaged.
In November 2021, Astra completed its first commercial orbital launch, for the U.S. Space Force, from its Kodiak Spaceport, in Alaska (pictured right).