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by Sofia Villegas
27 October 2023
Shetland space launch project gets multi-million pound boost

SaxaVord Spaceport is in Unst, Shetland | UKSA

Shetland space launch project gets multi-million pound boost

A satellite manufacturer has received a £3.5m boost for a launch project in Shetland. 

Headquartered at Grantown-on-Spey, Rocket Factory UK (RFA UK) expects to take off from SaxaVord Spaceport early next year. 

Awarded by the UK Space Agency (UKSA), the funding will allow the space company to develop and test any infrastructure and equipment required for the launch.  

UK Government minister for Scotland, John Lamont, said: “The Scottish space sector continues to go from strength to strength with the latest figures showing an almost £40m increase in income and more than 100 new highly-skilled jobs with support from the UK Government. This new funding will help support launches from SaxaVord Spaceport in Shetland, and maintain UK leadership in this sector.” 

UKSA’s funding forms part of the European Space Agency (ESA), Boost! Programme, which helps companies develop and commercialise new launch technologies.

Matt Archer, director of launch at UKSA, added: “This contract will help RFA UK and SaxaVord Spaceport prepare for their first launch, creating highly skilled jobs and supporting the government’s vision for the UK to be Europe’s most attractive launch destination by 2030.”   

The organisations behind the launch project expect the space station to create almost 100 jobs once fully operational.

The 30-meter-tall RFA ONE launch vehicle uses various measures to offer affordable and reliable transportation into space including Helix staged-combustion energy, which is environmentally friendly.

Jörn Spurmann, managing director of RFA UK, commented: “With the UK contributing as the third nation to the RFA ONE development via C-STS Boost!, we solidify our role as a genuine European launch service provider and the most endorsed commercial launch service development within the C-STS Boost! Programme.“

RFA UK is a subsidiary of Rocket Factory Augsburg AG and hopes to become one of the spaceport’s anchor customers.  

Other companies supported by the governmental agency include aerospace firm, Lockheed Martin, which received a £23m fund for its launch project set to take place later next year.

Science minister George Freeman, who recently visited the spaceport’s progress, said: “The UK’s high growth £17bn space industry is on the frontline of advanced satellite manufacturing and satcomms technology and services, and set to grow fast as the commercial low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite sector expands in the next decade.“

The news comes after Scottish Government innovation minister Richard Lochhead travelled to a space summit in Los Angeles, where he outlined to delegates the national Space Strategy, which aims to make Scotland Europe’s leading space nation by 2030.

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