Shetland becomes first UK spaceport for vertical rocket launches

A site in the Shetland Isles has become the UK’s first spaceport for vertical rocket launches.

SaxaVord Spaceport on Unst has been given the green light from the Civil Aviation Authority to begin launches next year.

The spaceport is also the first fully licensed vertical spaceport in Western Europe, and permits up to 30 launches a year that will be used to take satellites into space.

There are a number of launch operators from around the world currently developing rockets to launch from SaxaVord.

The site is a former RAF radar station and is co-owned by Frank and Debbie Strang who bought it 15 years ago.

‘The award of our spaceport licence is both historic for Shetland, Scotland and the UK and places us firmly at the leading edge of the European and global space economy,’ said Frank.

‘Our team is very proud that the Government has entrusted us with operating a complex, multi-disciplinary and multi-launch spaceport and we all take this responsibility very seriously.

‘There is much to do still but this is a fantastic way to end the year and head into Christmas.’

The space industry in the UK is estimated to be worth £17.5bn and supports about 48,800 jobs at 2,200 firms.

‘Granting SaxaVord their licence is an era-defining moment for the UK space sector,’ Tim Johnson, director of space regulation at the CAA, said.

‘This marks the beginning of a new chapter for UK space as rockets may soon launch satellites into orbit from Scotland.

‘We are undertaking vital work to make sure the UK’s space activities are safe and sustainable for all.’

Edinburgh-based Skyrora also aims to be the first UK company to launch from the UK in the coming years.

The UK’s first licensed spaceport was Cornwall Spaceport however its rockets are launched horizontally.

UK Government Minister for Scotland John Lamont said: ‘I’m over the moon that Scotland now officially has its first spaceport and is home to the first fully licensed vertical launch site in western Europe.

‘Shetland, along with other sites in the country, are set to be at the heart of the UK’s space industry success story for years to come.

‘Scottish satellites are already in space and rocket companies from home and around the world are currently developing rockets to launch from Scotland.

‘This is more good news for Scotland’s thriving space industry and the many people who work in it.’