Science

Milestone as spaceport applies for licences to launch satellites from Shetland

SaxaVord UK Spaceport hopes to launch satellites before the end of the year if permission is granted.

Licence applications for the UK’s first vertical-launch spaceport have been submitted to the industry regulator in a “milestone” for the project.

SaxaVord UK Spaceport, which will be located at Lamba Ness in Unst, was granted planning permission by Shetland Islands Council last month.

Three launchpads will be built at the £43 million spaceport, allowing for the launch of small satellites into either polar or sun-synchronous, low-Earth orbits.

SaxaVord UK Spaceport has now formally submitted its Spaceport and Range Licence applications to the industry regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Frank Strang, chief executive of SaxaVord Spaceport, said: “Our operations team have been working extremely hard on multiple fronts over the last two years to ensure that all the pieces of a very complicated jigsaw were prepared so we could hit the ground running as we started the year.

“Our licence applications mark the next milestone in our ambition to become the first orbital launch site in the UK.

“Our applications will now be assessed and evaluated by the CAA, a process which will take at least six months.

“The beginning of 2022 has already been significant for our team and for Shetland, with the approval of our planning permission.

“I am confident that the end of the year will be equally momentous for us and the UK vertical launch industry.”

The company is aiming to launch 30 rockets a year, and has set the target of seeing its first orbital launch from UK soil after the third quarter of this year.

Following the granting of planning approval at the end of February, the Scottish Government has a 28-day window to review the application.

Construction of the spaceport can begin if Scottish Ministers choose not to call the application in for review, or call it in and agree that the project should proceed.

It is hoped work can begin in late March.

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