Unst Spaceport to Host Launches for Astra12th May 2022
The American launch service provider Astra announced an agreement with the SaxaVord spaceport located on Unst, the northernmost part of the British Isles, to launch its rocket from the UK. They intend to carry out the first launches from this UK-based spaceport in 2023.
The company is still in the process of obtaining the necessary approvals and achieving final agreements. However, this is a significant step for Astra considering its plans to enter the global market. Earlier, the company launched into orbit from Kodiak (Alaska) and Cape Canaveral (Florida). The UK-based spaceport will thus become its first launch spot outside the US.
Benefits of Launches from the UK
According to an Astra representative, the company seeks to ensure that it can address the needs of all its clients by means of a partnership with the Shetland-based spaceport. He emphasised that the partnership will provide access to additional inclinations and launch capacity. SaxaVord offers its partners direct trajectories from 330 to 075 degrees true. And with several launch pads, the site could have the capacity to conduct as many as 30 launches annually. However, it remains to be seen how much of this capacity Astra will receive. Unst is becoming popular among small launch vehicle developers.
Coming Launches from Shetland
Though construction at Unst was to begin in late March 2022, the site has already reached multiple launch agreements. Britain’s Skyrora, German-based HyImpulse and American-based ABL Space, with investments from Lockheed Martin, plan to use the launch site in Unst for their upcoming launch activities. SaxaVord has also a deal with French rocket developer VOS to develop a vertical launch programme starting in 2024.
Once active, the Shetland-based launch site will significantly contribute to the build out of the British space industry. The government’s goals are ambitious, including the capture of 10% of the space market by 2030. With a full-cycle space industry comprising satellite manufacturers, who currently must transfer satellites overseas for launches, launch sites, vehicles and launch service providers, the UK business expects to see accelerated investments in various areas – from the space industry to connectivity.