SaxaVord begins STEM outreach with free space lessons

31st Jan 2023
SaxaVord begins STEM outreach with free space lessons

Scotland’s SaxaVord Spaceport is focusing on STEM in February as it announces two free online lessons teaching participants about space suits, rockets, and launches. The company will also host a Q&A with Britain’s first astronaut, Helen Sharman, who traveled to space in 1991. The online event will also begin the launch of SaxaVord’s STEM Live 2023.

The UK is working hard to bolster interest in STEM to fill the skills gaps the space industry faces today, and outreach programs like SaxaVord’s dovetail with the UK Space Agency’s national strategy.

SaxaVord space lessons

SaxaVord, which is developing a launch site and ground station in the Shetland Islands, will kick off the event on Thursday, 2nd February with the live Q&A with Helen Sharman, available for all age groups. Then on the 3rd, the online lessons will begin. The first session is dubbed ‘Mission: Space Cadets! Following in the Footsteps of Neil Armstrong’ and will focus on teaching “what it takes to become an astronaut, training, materials used in space suits, space travel, living and working in space”, according to the company.

The second session, ‘Blast Off! The Forces of Rocket Science’ will teach participants about rockets, how the spaceport will launch them, and why lift off from Scotland. SaxaVord is also offering a virtual tour of the spaceport after the lesson.

Space skills and STEM

It is no secret that there is a space skills shortage in the UK – and worldwide – and that is why STEM outreach has received much attention and funding in recent years. Notably, Britain’s second astronaut, Tim Peake, retired from ESA’s astronaut corps in January to become a UKSA ambassador and continue outreach programs, maintaining his reputation as an inspiration in the UK space industry.

Despite the Virgin Orbit launch ultimately failing in January, the media coverage and excitement for launching from the UK is positive for the nation’s future in space and will garner interest from students or those looking for a career change. In December, Spaceport Cornwall’s CEO, Melissa Thorpe, told Orbital Today about the importance of outreach and developing easier pathways for people to get jobs in space. She said:

“I think for us, we’re just at the beginning of what we’re able to do in this field, but we know the power of space to inspire. But we also know that we need to be able to harness that power. We have to get the right pathways into the industry and also to communicate that space isn’t just about being an astronaut or an astrophysicist anymore. And breaking down some of those stereotypes is really important.”

SaxaVord gears up for a big 2023

This year will mark the beginning of SaxaVord’s commercial operations if all goes to plan. SaxaVord was supposed to host its first launch in 2022 with Lockheed Martin and ABL Systems for UKSA’s Pathfinder mission, but after several delays, it has been pushed back to take place this year. In early January, SaxaVord also announced it had partnered with Rocket Factory Ausburg (RFA), a German rocket start-up,  to use the spaceport for its orbital launches – with the first slated to take place at the end of this year.

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