Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Space regulators have given the port the all-clear for lift-off (Picture: SaxaVord/PA Wire)

People living in the Shetland Islands whose cars are in the shop or narrowly missed the last bus will soon have a new way to get around – rocket.

Well, kind of.

To carry out spaceflight activity in the UK, all spaceport and launch operators must be licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

And for the first time in British history, a spaceport on British soil has been given the all-clear for vertical rocket launches by the regulator.

The CAA announced today that following ‘rigorous safety, security, and environmental assessment’, the SaxaVord Spaceport on Unst, Scotland, should prepare for lift-off next year.

‘The not-too-distant future could see Scottish-built rockets launching Scottish satellites from a Scottish spaceport,’ the CAA said.

SaxaVord, a former RAF base, is in Unst on the Shetland Islands (Picture: PA)

The first lift-off will be a sub-orbital rocket made by German company HyImpulse (Picture: PA)

The licence, dated Friday, allows SaxaVord to host up to 30 launches a year.

With a population of only a few hundred people, the grassy island of Unst is the northernmost point of the inhabited British Isles.

Owned by husband and wife Frank and Debbie Strang, the new spaceport will be the island’s newest tourist attraction alongside its pirate-ransacked castle Munsees and the boat museum in Hardolwsick.

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The £30,000,000 spaceport is a former RAF base that now includes three launch pads and a hangar for assembling rockets.

The couple, who took over the base in 2004, plans to build a hotel and visitor centre at SaxaVord.

SaxaVord Spaceport CEO Frank said getting their privately-owned spaceport licensed is ‘historic’ as he stressed his team take the ‘responsibility’ of helming the future of British space activity seriously.

A map of the spaceport (Picture: CAA/Stephen Baker)

‘There is much to do still,’ he said, ‘but this is a fantastic way to end the year and head into Christmas.’

German company HyImpulse hopes to the base to launch sub-orbital satellites – flights not fast enough to reach outer space – in August.

Full orbital launches are expected to take place from 2025, with Rocket Factory Augsburg among them.

Tim Johnson, director of space regulation at the CAA, said: ‘Granting SaxaVord their licence is an era-defining moment for the UK space sector.

‘This marks the beginning of a new chapter for UK space as rockets may soon launch satellites into orbit from Scotland.

‘We are undertaking vital work to make sure the UK’s space activities are safe and sustainable for all.’

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