UK’s rocket launch site takes shape ahead of blast off later THIS year
The UK’s launch site buried in the Shetlands is shaping up nicely ahead of the nation’s first-ever vertical rocket launch this summer.
The beginnings of the launchpad which will hold the rocket prior to its fiery ascent are officially underway, as the company behind the project – SaxaVord – urges the UK’s regulator to speed up its launch licence.
“Our site captured on a sunny day! The launch stool for Launchpad Fredo sits overlooking the North Sea,” SaxaVord wrote on Twitter today, sharing a glimpse of the launch site.
“The foundations have been laid for the first integration facility and rocket hall, and the steel for its construction is being laid down and moved into place.”
It’s said the UK’s inaugural vertical rocket launch could happen as soon as August – should the company get its way.
It will be the first launch on UK soil that closely mirrors traditional rockets expulsions in the US, where a rocket stands tall and blast off vertically into the heavens.
This is unlike the country’s first orbital launch attempt from Newquay in January month, where Richard Branson‘s Virgin Orbit rocket LauncherOne piggy backed on a Boeing 747 before attempting to reach space.
It failed, and Virgin Orbit has since collapsed, however, the horizontal launch will always be in the history books for having received the UK’s first spaceport licence.
With the shortfall of the Virgin Orbit launch, the UK’s aviation watchdog is reportedly keen to strike a balance between regulating at speed and ensuring safety measures are met.
But SaxaVord’s CEO Frank Strang called on the government last month to make speedier progress with the company’s launch licence – or risk squashing the UK’s blossoming space industry.
Speaking at a Science, Innovation and Technology Committee meeting in parliament last month, Strang said he wants the Civil Aviation Authority to issue a launch licence by July.
He called it “a vital step in our launch progress and the UK’s viability as a space nation.”
“Every country in the world has got a space economy, and they all want to be part of this ‘space race’,” added Strang.
“We need to work with the regulator to ensure and show the world that we are open for business, because there’s lots of young companies that want to come here.”
The CEO stressed that if the licence was not granted in time then it could dampen the UK’s viability as a space nation.
Should SaxaVord be awarded with a launch licence – for which an environmental consultation has only just begun – ahead of its August ambitions, there will be several launches erupting from the UK in the coming months.
Germany’s HyImpulse Technologies suborbital rocket – which does not reach space – is set to perform the first vertical blast-off from UK turf.
While US firm ABL Space Systems is also lined up to launch a mission this year from the SaxaVord site called Pathfinder, which is supported by funding from the UK Space Agency.