Shetland Secures Increased Funding for Satellite Launch from UK and European Space Agencies

Shetland Secures Increased Funding for Satellite Launch from UK and European Space Agencies

UK  (Parliament Politic Magazine) – The funding, granted through the European Space Agency (ESA) Boost! Programme in partnership with the UK Space Agency, has been allocated to RFA UK. They intend to use the funds for the development and operation of essential infrastructure and testing equipment required for launching from SaxaVord Spaceport, with a scheduled launch date in the second quarter of 2024. 

Collaboration Of RFA UK And SaxaVord Spaceport

The collaboration between RFA UK and SaxaVord Spaceport anticipates the creation of approximately 90 skilled jobs within the local community as the spaceport reaches full operational capacity, encompassing roles in spaceport operations, administration, integration, testing, and launch

A subsidiary of Rocket Factory Augsburg AG (RFA AG), the UK-based company is headquartered in Grantown-on-Spey, Scotland. RFA AG has secured exclusive access to SaxaVord’s ‘Fredo’ launch pad, where it intends to offer a consistent schedule of launch services, serving as one of the spaceport’s primary clients.

The RFA ONE launch vehicle stands at 30 meters in height and is 2 meters wide. It features a three-stage design, capable of delivering payloads of up to 1,300 kg to a 500 km polar orbit. 

The Rocket Employes Emviornemental Friendly Engines 

This rocket employs environmentally friendly Helix staged-combustion engines, stainless steel tanks, and standardized components borrowed from other industries, ensuring a versatile, cost-effective, and precise means of transporting payloads into orbit through its Redshift OTV technology

George Freeman MP, Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, expressed:

“The UK’s burgeoning space industry, valued at £17 billion and characterized by cutting-edge satellite manufacturing and satcomms technology and services, stands at the forefront. It is poised for rapid expansion, especially with the anticipated growth of the commercial Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellite sector in the coming decade.

The government, through our approximately £1.5 billion UK space funding initiatives, is committed to supporting satcomms technology, space science, missions, and infrastructure, all of which contribute to the development of the commercial satellite sector.

This investment of £3.5 million will empower RFA UK to advance the necessary technologies for launching from SaxaVord Spaceport in Scotland, ultimately leading to the creation of numerous local job opportunities and further strengthening the Scottish cluster’s position as an integral part of the UK space sector.”

UK Space Agency Promoting Satelite Launch Project

Matt Archer, Director of Launch at the UK Space Agency, commented:

“Our investment in Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA) UK underscores our ongoing dedication to position the UK as the leading launch destination in Europe. This commitment is aimed at fostering the growth of launch companies.

This contract is poised to assist RFA UK and SaxaVord Spaceport in their preparations for their inaugural launch, thereby creating a substantial number of highly skilled job opportunities. It aligns with the government’s vision to establish the UK as the most appealing launch destination in Europe by 2030.

RFA UK was established with the specific purpose of implementing and managing launch-specific systems and test equipment in support of RFA AG’s planned launches from SaxaVord Spaceport.”

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UK Space Agency’s Support and Funding for RFA UK’s Orbital Launch Endeavors

Jörn Spurmann, Managing Director of RFA UK and Chief Commercial Officer of RFA AG, expressed

“The support extended by the UK Space Agency underscores their robust confidence in our approach. We eagerly anticipate our inaugural orbital launch, which will take place on British territory at the SaxaVord Spaceport in mainland Europe. 

This momentous occasion will further solidify our leading position in European commercial spaceflight and exemplify the unwavering trust the European Space Agency has in our strategic vision.

By involving the UK as the third nation in contributing to the RFA ONE development through C-STS Boost!, we strengthen our role as a genuine European launch service provider and the most endorsed commercial launch service development within the C-STS Boost! Programme. We are absolutely thrilled to reciprocate this trust and support.

Additionally, the UK Space Agency has provided further funding for launch activities, including two separate grants totaling £23.4 million to Lockheed Martin. These grants are intended to establish launch operations at SaxaVord Spaceport and to construct a small launch orbital maneuvering vehicle in Reading, which will be launched during Lockheed Martin’s pathfinder launch from the site.”

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.