Shetland’s SaxaVord Spaceport awarded licence for UK’s first vertical rocket launch

The UK has approved its first spaceport for vertical launch rockets in the northernmost part of the Shetland islands.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has granted a licence to SaxaVord Spaceport, located on the small island Unst. This will allow its first launch in 2024.

The regulator confirmed that the privately-owned spaceport met all safety and environmental requirements to launch vertically into space.

Frank and Debbie Strang, husband and wife, have owned the former RAF Base, located on a peninsula in Unst since 2004.

The launcher can be used for 30 launches per year, and it serves companies that need to place satellites in polar or sun-synchronous orbits.
Less than £30 million has been spent on the spaceport development.This includes three launchpads and a hangar to assemble rockets.

Rocket Factory Augsburg, a German company, and HyImpulse are hoping to launch rockets from SaxaVord by 2024.

They also plan to build a visitor center and hotel at SaxaVord.

Mr Strang stated that the UK is now “right at or near the front of the European Space Race” with the newly awarded licence.

He said: “I see it like Hillary’s ascent of Everest. It makes a statement and creates a feeling good factor.

The UK is showing a strong commitment to the space economy.
All of our clients are international. It’s all about supply chain and education.

The next year will be pivotal for the UK’s position in the global space sector.

Tim Johnson, the director of space regulations at CAA, said that granting SaxaVord a license is a significant milestone in the UK space industry.
Satellites may soon be launched into space from Scotland, marking a new era for UK space exploration.
We are doing vital work to ensure that the UK’s space activity is safe and sustainable for everyone.

Mr Strang called the awarding of the license “historic”, and added: “Our team takes this responsibility very serious. We are all very proud that the Government has entrusted our team with the operation of a complex multidisciplinary spaceport.

There is still much to be done, but this is an excellent way to finish the year before Christmas.

SaxaVord, the UK’s only licensed spaceport, is able to launch rockets vertically rather than horizontally.

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