Will the UK’s first rocket launch take place at Shetland Space Centre?

18th Aug 2020

A location has finally been selected for the long-awaited first-ever commercial rocket launch from the UK. A distant remote island is to be home to the Shetland Space Centre, where it is expected the first launch will be carried out.

Lockheed Martin, an American company, is expected to spend its 23.5 million Euro grant on developing a vehicle that will launch from the remote island of Unst where the Shetland Space Centre is set up. From here it will send a smallsat rocket launch into orbit come 2021. The geographical spot is perfect as there is a more or less clear route to polar orbit with no human population within the route.

Once the project gets a go-ahead clearance from the local authorities, plenty of opportunities will present themselves. The locals of the area will greatly benefit by gaining new employment opportunities that the spaceport is bound to open up.

The UK Space Agency is behind the grant that Lockheed Martin plans to use. This cash was given to help create the first vertical rocket launch site. The highlighted geographical spot is perfect. After all the permissions go through, the construction will commence.

John Neilson from Lockheed Martin mentioned that they were proud to be working with Shetland Space Centre and Highlands and Islands on the project.

The Purpose of the Rocket Launch

The anticipated lift-off from the Shetland Space Centre will serve the purpose of gathering data from space from small satellites. This information is aimed to help drive development across the country.

The Shetland Space Centre is yet another spaceport that has been added on the map joining the likes of Sutherland Space Hub, which is still to begin construction. As per the current planning delays on Sutherland’s continuing development, only 12 take-offs will be allowed to occur yearly.

These spaceports are forecasted to function quite similarly to airports — handling different airlines but serving one similar purpose — to facilitate the journey into space. Sunderland will, however, handle multiple rocket launch missions run and managed by various organizations.

The UK Space Agency spokesman made a statement that they were in support of the ambition of all potential spaceport sites, including the three Scottish spaceports. They also added that they will support all the companies looking into launching from either of the locations.

Skyrora, a British rocket company, has also mentioned launching from Shetland.

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