UK's first spaceport allowing for vertical rocket launches will be at SaxaVord site in Shetland Islands

An illustration of what vertical rocket launches in Scotland could look like (SaxaVord)An illustration of what vertical rocket launches in Scotland could look like (SaxaVord)
An illustration of what vertical rocket launches in Scotland could look like (SaxaVord)

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A 'era-defining' licence has been granted for SaxaVord's Shetland Islands site for vertical rocket launches

The route for a UK aerospace landmark has been laid out after a spaceport site was granted the nation's first licence for vertical rocket launches. A site within the Shetlands Islands will become the first UK spaceport to be allowed to launch vertical rockets after the Civilian Aviation Authority (CAA) gave its approval.

The small isle of Unst in Scotland is the location where the licence has been granted, meaning the first launches could take place in 2024. Cornwall Spaceport became the UK's first licenced spaceport, but SaxaVord's licence allows for vertical launches rather than horizontal launches where rockets are carried by aircraft.

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The former RAF Base on the remote island has been privately owned by Frank and Debbie Strang since 2004. Together, they have reportedly spent around £30m on developing the spaceport which has three launch pads and a hangar.

The licence means up to 30 launches could take place every year and companies could use it to launch satellites into orbit. Rocket Factory Augsburg and Hylmpulse are two companies that have expressed an interest in working with the site. Mr and Mrs Strang also have plans to bring a visitor centre and hotel to the site.

Speaking about the licence, 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."

Mr Strang added: "Our team is very proud that the government has entrusted us with operating a complex, multi-disciplinary and multi-launch spaceport, and we all take this responsibility very seriously. There is much to do still but this is a fantastic way to end the year and head into Christmas."

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