ABL and Lockheed’s First Vertical Launch Falls Back To Next Year

17th Jun 2022
ABL and Lockheed’s First Vertical Launch Falls Back To Next Year

Unfortunately, the UK Pathfinder mission is unlikely to fly before the New Year and has been pushed back to 2023. While it is still on course to perform the first-ever vertical launch to orbit from UK soil, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that this is going to happen in 2022.

Lockheed Martin’s regional director of space for the U.K. and Europe, Nik Smith, said that “there are a number of programme dependencies that we continually manage which makes the first quarter of 2023 more favourable.”

Orbex, the British micro launch startup, is targeting 2022 or early next year for its first flight, and this delay appears to have had a knock-on effect for ABL and Lockheed in terms of their plans in the race to perform the first vertical orbital launch in the UK.

Delays have been aplenty in the race to vertical orbital launch

Back in 2018, Lockheed Martin secured funding from the British Government to help in the development of their domestic launch capability. The company then decided to partner with ABL to perform a launch from Scotland’s SaxaVord Spaceport in 2022.

Speaking of the launch, Nik Smith said:

“Not only will this launch capability stimulate prosperity in the region and across the UK, but it also marks an important step in achieving the ambitions of the new National Space Strategy.”

However, as a consequence of a testing accident in January, there have been a number of delays to the RS1 rocket that ABL plans to utilise for the mission.

The rocket is expected to launch soon, after initially being scheduled to launch in early 2022 from Alaska’s Kodiak Island.

The co-founder and president of ABL, Dan Piemont, said:

“We’ll want to see a few flights of the rocket in the U.S. before we fly it in Scotland, but there will be plenty of opportunity for that.”

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