Shetland’s SaxaVord Spaceport has licensed the UK’s first vertical rocket launch | UK News


A site on the northernmost tip of the Shetland Islands has become the UK’s first licensed spaceport for vertical rocket launches.

SaxaVord Spaceport on the small island of Unst has been licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which will allow its first launches in 2024.

The regulator confirmed that the privately owned spaceport met the safety and environmental requirements for vertical space launches.

Since 2004, husband and wife Frank and Debbie Strong have owned the former RAF base, which is located on a remote peninsula on Unst.

It is licensed for up to 30 launches each year and is aimed at companies wishing to launch satellites into polar, sun-synchronous orbits.

So far, just under £30 million has been spent on developing the spaceport, which includes three launch pads and a hangar to assemble rockets.

Two German companies, Rocket Factory Augsburg and HyImpulse, hope to complete launches from SaxaVord in 2024.

The couple also have plans for a hotel and visitor center at SaxaVord.

Frank Strang and his wife Debbie own the SaxaVord spaceport on Unst.  Image: SaxaVord
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Frank Strang and his wife Debbie own the SaxaVord spaceport on Unst. Image: SaxaVord

‘An era-defining moment’

Tim Johnson, director of space regulation at the CAA, said: “Granting SaxaVord their license is an era-defining moment for the UK space sector.

“This marks the beginning of a new chapter for UK space as rockets can soon send satellites into orbit from Scotland.

“We are doing important work to ensure that the UK’s space activities are safe and sustainable for everyone.”

SaxaVord spaceport in Unst.  Image: SaxaVord
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Image: SaxaVord

SaxaVord spaceport in Unst.  Image: SaxaVord
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Image: SaxaVord

Sir. Strang said the award of the license is “historic” and added: “Our team is very proud that the government has entrusted us to operate a complex, multi-disciplinary spaceport with multiple launches, and we all take this responsibility very seriously.

“There’s still a lot to do, but this is a great way to end the year and go into Christmas.”

While Cornwall Spaceport became the UK’s first licensed spaceport, SaxaVord’s license allows it to host vertical launches rather than horizontal launches of rockets carried by aircraft.


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