A ground preparation celebration was held today (Wednesday) marking yet another milestone in the journey towards the UK’s first vertical satellite launch.
SaxaVord Spaceport welcomed pupils from Baltasound Junior School, the Uyeasound Viking Up-Helly-A’ squad and former SIC member Alastair Cooper to mark the historic occasion.
The celebrations were held at the site of the future rocket launches – including pad three which is to be named “Launch Pad Elizabeth” in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
They will be built by Shetland firm DITT Construction Ltd, with a support from a range of sub-contractors including Unst Plant, EMN Plant and Sandisons of Unst.
At the height of construction, there are expected to be 60 workers on site, all of whom will be accommodated at the former RAF Saxa Vord site.
The first stage will involve improvements to the road between Baltasound and the site at Lamba Ness.
In the meantime, a “strip and record” process is already underway at the site to register the site’s archaeological history.
Once completed, construction of the spaceport itself can begin, ready for launch by the end of this year.
DITT director Peter Tait, who has family connections to Unst, said: “We are delighted to have been appointed as the main contractor to build the Spaceport.
“It is great to see vitality returning to the island and we are excited to get going, initially on the roadworks and ultimately on the site itself. We are obviously hoping for a summer of good weather.”
SaxaVord chief executive Frank Strang added: “Today marks a milestone in our journey to become the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport.
“I was honoured that Alastair Cooper accepted our invitation to the site for the occasion.
“Alastair has devoted virtually all his working life to ensuring Shetland’s economy is sustainable and flourishes in the future, which is very much at the heart of our mission here.
“We have a fantastic team on board, and I am confident that by the end of this year they will have been responsible for establishing the UK’s vertical launch capabilities.”