SaxaVord hails historic milestone as another licence is granted ahead of UK’s first ever vertical satellite launch

SaxaVord Spaceport has been granted the final licence it requires to host orbital satellite launches – with the first expected in the third quarter of this year.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority granted the spaceport’s “range control licence” yesterday.

It marks another giant leap in the Unst spaceport’s progress towards achieving the UK’s first vertical satellite launch.

The CAA had already granted SaxaVord its spaceport licence in December – the first to be approved anywhere in the UK.

The latest licence gives the spaceport permission to clear and control the downrange zone during launches.

It is a legal requirement – but does not in itself grant permission to launch.

All that remains is for Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA) to be granted its operator licence, which is a separate process also co-ordinated by the CAA.

SaxaVord chief executive Frank Strang said his team was “delighted” to have been granted the licence – and for it to have been approved by the UK government transport secretary Mark Harper.

He said it was another “historic milestone” for the spaceport, Shetland and the UK space sector.

“This is a vital component in our preparations for launch,” he added.

“Satisfying such a crucial piece of the regulatory process affords everyone the comfort that we will always operate in a safe and proper manner under the watchful eye of the regulator.

“As western Europe’s only fully licenced vertical launch spaceport, we are now preparing to make more space history with the beginning of orbital launch operations well underway and first launch expected to be in quarter three of this year.”

The CAA said it had issued SaxaVord’s licences well ahead of any potential launches and it was currently assessing operators, including (RFA), which is scheduled to make the first launch later this year.

The government agency is currently monitoring operations at SaxaVord to ensure they are meeting the terms of their licence and public safety is protected.

The CAA’s head of UK space regulation Colin Macleod said: “SaxaVord’s range licence is vital to protecting public safety during launches.

“Our work is enabling the UK’s expanding space sector and encouraging safety, sustainability and security of space activity.”

SaxaVord and RFA first struck their multi-million pound deal in January 2023, providing the German firm exclusive access to launch pad Fredo.

The first launch will involve the RFA One launch system.

The spaceport, which received a £10 million funding boost from the UK government in the spring budget, has signed agreements with other rocket companies, including HyImpulse.

It is also set to host Lockheed Martin’s UK Pathfinder project.


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