Tag Archives: Sutherland

Scotland’s first commercial rocket test flight

Capitalism in space: A private smallsat rocket company, Skyrora, has successfully completed a suborbital test flight, the first commercial rocket test flight in Scotland.

Skyrora saw its 2.5 metre (9ft) projectile reach altitudes of almost four miles after taking off at the Kildermorie Estate in Ross-shire. Known as Skylark Nano, it accelerated to Mach 1.45 – more than 110mph.

One could also describe Skylark Nano as nothing more than a big model rocket. Nonetheless, the company is using this test flight to improve its chances to win the competition for some of the money the UK government will award to private companies in connection with the establishment of its new spaceport in Sutherland, Scotland.

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UK estimates its new spaceport could capture thousands of smallsat launches

Capitalism in space: Estimates by the United Kingdom’s space agency suggest that its new spaceport in Scotland could capture thousands of smallsat launches by the end of the 2020s.

Figures released … suggest that existing ‘rideshare’ small satellite launches (small satellites piggybacking on larger missions) are capable of meeting less than 35% of the total demand. This reveals a significant gap in commercial small satellite launch provision for which future UK spaceports are well placed to compete.

The press release also gives an update on the recent actions of the two smallsat rocket companies, Orbex and Lockheed Martin (in partnership with Rocket Lab), to establish operations in Scotland.

It remains to be seen whether these predictions will come true. Right now it appears that a giant boom in the smallsat industry is about to happen, and if it does the need for launchpads will become critical. If so, the policy shift in the UK to favor private spaceflight is arriving at just the right time.

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United Kingdom picks location in Scotland for spaceport

The British government, after years of study, has chosen a location in northern Scotland for its first homegrown spaceport.

In a statement issued in advance of the start of the Farnborough International Airshow, the U.K. Space Agency said it will provide initial funding of 2.5 million pounds ($3.3 million) to begin development of a vertical launch site in Sutherland, on the Atlantic coast in northern Scotland.

In its announcement, the agency said it selected the site “because Scotland is the best place in the U.K. to reach highly sought-after satellite orbits with vertically launched rockets.” The site would allow launches to the north, supporting spacecraft operating in sun-synchronous or other highly inclined orbits.

The announcement gave few details about the facility or indicated what company, or companies, would use it, but noted launches would begin there in the early 2020s. More information is expected to be announced July 16 at the air show.

This announcement contradicts a 2016 policy decision that had instead opened up spaceport licensing to whatever location wished to do it. Now the British government appears to have stepped in and picked this one site, though the article also says they are considering a second site for horizontal launches, using such systems as the Pegasus rocket, Stratolaunch, and LauncherOne.

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