UK’s first space flight could blast off from Shetland Islands as early as next year after company strikes deal with landowner

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  • Edinburgh rocket company Skyrora has struck a deal with a spaceport on Shetland belonging to billionaire landowner Anders Holch Povalson
  • Skyora expects its rockets to put satellites into orbit by 2030 with 16 launches a year
  • No rocket has reached space from the UK so far – but that may soon change with the first take-off predicted next year

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The first space rocket to explode from the UK could be launched from the Shetland Islands next year.

A deal has been struck between the Edinburgh Rocket Company Skyrora and Scotland’s largest landowner on the islands, a spaceport belonging to Britain’s northernmost location.


It is hoped that the 75-foot-tall, 56-ton, rocket built by Skyrora will deliver satellites into orbit with 16 launches a year by 2030 from the Saksavord Spaceport.

To date, no rocket from Britain has reached space.

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In June the launch of the two-metre Skylark Nano rocket, which reached an altitude of six kilometers above the Shetland mainland, took place.

SaxaVord Spaceport received a £1.43 million investment from Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povalsen, who owns large parts of rural Scotland.

SaxaVord still requires planning permission for its launch site on Unst Island.

Volodymyr Levikin, founder and CEO of Skyora, said: ‘We have made no secret of our ambition to be the first company to launch from UK soil, so agreeing to this multi-launch deal with SaxaVord is really is exciting.

‘The UK is a world leader in space technology, and this latest step brings us one more important step closer to offering an important space service from our own soil.’

The Rocket Company conducted the first, complete, ground, stationary fire test in the UK for half a century in May at the Kildarmory estate near Alnes in the Highlands.

This was the first vertical test of this magnitude in Britain since the Black Arrow program 50 years ago.

Testing of the Skyrora XL rocket’s third stage, which includes its Orbital Transfer Vehicle (OTV), which can restart its engines about 15 times in orbit, was completed late last year.

The OTV can perform tasks such as acting as a space tug, maintaining, or orbiting inactive satellites, and will be used to address the growing amount of space debris orbiting Earth.

In May last year, Skyrora completed a full ground stable fire test with the Skylark-L at the Kildemory estate near Alnes.

In May last year, Skyrora completed a full ground stable fire test with the Skylark-L at the Kildemory estate near Alnes.

The company plans to fuel the Skyrora XL rocket with EcoScene, its own more sustainable rocket fuel alternative made from waste plastics such as polystyrene.

The use of EcoScene on Skyrora’s planned flights could prevent more than 3,000 tons of nonrenewable plastic from going to landfills by 2030.

Mr. Levkin said: ‘The space industry has a responsibility to be committed to sustainability.’

Once operational, the SaxaVord spaceport is expected to create 140 jobs locally and 70 jobs in Shetland.

But Saksvoord still needs to obtain planning permission for its planned site on the Lamba Ness peninsula in Unst.

Frank Strang, CEO of Saksward Spaceport, said: ‘As we look forward to a launch from Unst next year, this is yet another exciting development and we look forward to working with the Skyrora team to help them build their XL rocket. To help you meet your goal of delivering. To revolve around.

‘The SaxaVord Spaceport location and the can-do attitude of our team mean that we are fully prepared to support Skyrora’s efforts.’

SaxaVord is also working on an existing UK Space Agency-funded deal with aerospace giants Lockheed Martin and ABL Space Systems, which aims to launch the first UK Pathfinder next year.

What is Space Junk? More than 170 million dead satellites, spent rockets and paint flakes ‘threat’ the space industry

There are an estimated 170 million pieces of so-called ‘space junk’ – left behind after missions that could be as large as spent rocket stages or as small as paint flakes – in orbit for some US$700 billion (£555bn). ) with space infrastructure.

But only 27,000 are tracked, and with fragments capable of traveling at speeds above 16,777 mph (27,000 km), even small fragments can seriously damage satellites. or destroy.

However, traditional gripping methods do not work in space, as suction cups do not operate in a vacuum and the temperature is too cold for substances such as tape and glue.

Grippers based on magnets are useless because most debris in orbit around Earth is not magnetic.

About 500,000 pieces of man-made debris (artist’s impression) are currently orbiting our planet, made up of unused satellites, pieces of spacecraft, and spent rockets.

Most proposed solutions, including debris harpoons, either require or cause forceful interaction with debris, which can push those objects in unexpected, unpredictable directions.

Scientists point to two events that have severely worsened the problem of space junk.

The first was in February 2009, when an Iridium telecommunications satellite and Kosmos-2251, a Russian military satellite, accidentally collided.

The second was in January 2007, when China tested an anti-satellite weapon on an old Fengyun weather satellite.

Experts also pointed to two sites that have become worryingly disorganized.

One is a low Earth orbit that is used by the Satnav satellites, the ISS, China’s manned missions, and the Hubble telescope.

The other is in geostationary orbit, and is used by communications, weather and surveillance satellites that must maintain a fixed position relative to Earth.



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