Work on a £100m spaceport could start next month after receiving its long-awaited planning approval.
The SaxaVord Spaceport team today (Monday) welcomed the SIC’s decision as a “critical first step” in the UK’s ambitions to become a “global science superpower”.
Spaceport chief Frank Strang said blasting work had already begun, with full construction set to get under way in late March.
Some £43m will be spent in the next 18 months, rising to £100m over five years.
While acknowledging “timelines are tight” the team still hopes to achieve the first launch this year.
It would be the first orbital launch from UK soil – and is hoped to establish the UK as the as the “European hub for commercial spaceflight”.
Mr Strang said his team would do everything they can to “deliver this historic mission for Shetland, Scotland, and the UK”.
He praised the Unst community for its “tremendous” support which he said had been crucial in keeping the project going.
“In many ways, it has been humbling for us all,” he said.
“I would like to thank everyone involved for their patience and belief in what we are delivering.”
Once built, the spaceport will feature three launchpads at Lamba Ness in Unst, allowing up to 30 launches per year, supporting services including telecommunications, media, weather and defence.
It is expected to create hundreds of new jobs in Unst, Shetland and the rest of the UK, generating millions of pounds for the economy each year.
Mr Strang said the economic benefits were already being felt, with the involvement of established Shetland companies, such as Sandisons and Ocean Kinetics, as well as emerging organisations set up by folk in Unst to support the project.
Today’s announcement comes after the SIC confirmed last week it was “minded to approve” the application.
While a major milestone in itself, the approval also marks the start of a 28-day window for Scottish ministers to review the application.
Provided they do not call it in, construction can begin.
On a more sombre note, Mr Strang noted the global connections of the space industry, including with Ukraine.
One of the spaceport’s launch partners, Skyroroa, has its roots in Ukraine.
“I would like to express our very best wishes and support to all their staff and families who are now caught up in the dreadful events in Ukraine following the senseless Russian invasion of their homeland,” Mr Strang said.