Balloon test launch will mark beginning of isles space era
The UK’s first commercial spaceflight-related activity will take place in Shetland this coming weekend, with the test launch of a stratospheric balloon for a system that will eventually deliver small satellites into orbit.
The launch system, known as “rockoon”, has been developed by Bristol-based B2Space, one of the first companies to partner the Shetland Space Centre (SSC).
The test launch is scheduled to take place at Baltasound Airport in Unst on Sunday, weather-permitting.
B2Space co-founder Valentin Canales said: “This is very exciting, both for ourselves and for Shetland Space Centre.
“We will be sending a smaller version of the balloon that we will eventually use up to a height of around 37km, carrying a complete set of instruments, trackers and control boards, as well as beaming back live images from an on-board camera.
“The purpose of the test flight is to confirm our ability to operate from Shetland by gathering data, adding to the theoretical study that we have carried out on the last 15 years of weather data.
“We believe it will support our case for a permanent base in Shetland, not only for launches to orbit, but for performing ‘near space operations’, such as testing satellite components in conditions similar to the ones faced in orbit.”