Upcoming UK Space Launches: Track the UK Space Race!2nd Dec 2022
The UK has found itself in the centre of its very own space race. With locations in Cornwall and the Shetland Islands ready to facilitate launches, there are multiple missions and private companies vying to be the first to launch from British soil. By the end of 2023 it is possible that we will have seen four launches from sites as far apart as Spaceport Cornwall and SaxaVord. This set of potential upcoming UK space launches makes 2023 an historic year in UK space history.
Below, we have summarised the state of each of the missions, and the likelihood that they will launch over the next year or so.
Upcoming UK Space Launches, as of 2nd December 2022
These are listed by launch site. The listing will be updated with the release of new information.
LauncherOne – Prometheus 2 – Cubesat 1 and 2 – Late 2022
The first satellite launch to take place from the UK will take off from the flagship Spaceport Cornwall. A modified Boeing aircraft will carry Launcher One skyward to launch Prometheus 2 and its onboard satellites into space.
This mission has been a long time in the making and was mooted for launch in summer. Numerous delays have followed, but the mission may still enter its next phase before the year is out.
The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, on behalf of the MOD, owns two cubesats onboard. Prometheus 2 was built in Hampshire with involvement from Airbus.
Cubesat 1 carries a GPS receiver along with hyperspectral imager as well as a laser detector. Cubesat 2 has optical imaging cameras. The satellites will monitor radio signals and provide sophisticated imaging technologies.
The Prometheus 2 launch will be a momentous occasion for the UK space industry. The country will finally see a satellite launch from UK soil. It has been over 50 years since a British-made rocket, Black Arrow, lifted off from Australia.
Spaceport Saxavord seems set to become the first in the UK for vertical launch. Launch vehicle companies are lining up to use their facilities.
RS1 – ABL Space Systems – UK Pathfinder – Early 2023
The UK Pathfinder mission aims to launch the RS1 rocket in Q1 of 2023. The two-stage launch utilises ABL’s E2 engines. The first stage comprises nine engines and one for the second.
The UK Pathfinder mission is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and ABL. They originally planned the launch for 2022. The launch has slipped into 2023, and could even need to wait until the summer, following accidents that occurred during test launches in 2022.
This will be the first of the RS1 rocket’s launches from the UK. The craft is capable of delivering a payload of almost 3,000 lbs into low orbit around the earth.
The Moog Small Launch Orbital Manoeuvring Vehicle (SL-OMV) is able to deploy up to six Cubesats.
ABL plans a US launch, which will take place before the Scottish launch. Dan Piemont, the president of ABL, explained: “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.”
Skyrora XL – “No Earlier” than 2023
Skyrora’s three-stage launch vehicle may take place in 2023 following the recent experimental launch of the Skylark L. The rocket will have nine HTP and kerosene engines for the first stage, one Skyforce engine for the second phase, and an LEO engine for the third phase.
It was announced in 2021 that the Skyrora XL would launch from the SaxaVord Spaceport, and in 2022 it was announced that the company would also carry out launches from Nova Scotia.
The XL can put payloads into Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO) between a range of 500km and 1,000km in altitude, and has a maximum payload of 350 kg to LEO. The vehicle can be used to launch into Polar Orbit between 200km and 1,000km in altitude.
RFA One – Rocket Factory Augsburg AG – 2023
Rocket Factor Augsburg will launch its maiden spacecraft from the UK. The RFA One is a three-stage rocket, and it has been built to deliver payloads up to 1,350 kg into orbit.
The RFA One will launch from SaxaVord by late 2023, if all goes to plan. The craft will transport smaller satellites into low Earth orbit and Sun-synchronous orbit, and will be 30m in length. It is powered by the Helix staged combustion engine, which RSA claim offers “higher efficiency and performance compared to conventional open-cycle rocket engines.”
The company has been testing out of Kiruna, Sweden, but will launch from UK soil. It’s further proof of the growing appeal of both SaxaVord and Spaceport Cornwall as Britain becomes a true space industry force.
The rocket is a private venture by Rocket Factory Augsburg but has had support from the ESA and the Portuguese Space Agency.
Check Orbital Today for more on upcoming UK space launches
Orbital Today will keep track of these upcoming UK space launches and update our calendar as launch dates come into sharper focus.