Public consultation event for vertical launch site

Initial plans for a vertical launch site in Unst for small rockets, which will open up a brand-new sector of the local and national economy, is to be the subject of a public consultation event next month.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the pre-planning application public exhibition for Shetland Space Centre’s draft proposals to bring spaceflight to the isles will take place online at www.consultation.shetlandspacecentre.com on Tuesday 12th, Wednesday 13th and Thursday 14th May, between 4pm and 8pm inclusive each day.

This is a week later than originally planned, following the Scottish Government’s introduction last week of temporary regulations which allow such events to be held virtually while public gatherings are banned.

In what is deemed by planning legislation to be a “major” application, SSC is seeking permission to build a vertical launch spaceport, including a launch pad complex, mobile tracking stations and assembly/integration hangar buildings with associated security fencing, access and servicing at Lamba Ness.

It also intends to create a launch and range control centre at the Saxa Vord Resort complex and construct a new section of access road through Northdale, which is situated just north of the former RAF base. Both will be the subject of two smaller separate “local” planning applications.

The online consultation event will be attended by the project’s lead planning consultant and a representative of Shetland Space Centre who will be available to answer questions and provide any additional information or clarification as required.

For those interested parties unable to attend or who do not have access to the online consultation event, alternative means are being made available for contacting Shetland Space Centre via post, telephone and email to obtain further information and ask questions.

A leaflet is being delivered to all domestic properties in Unst with this contact information and details of the draft proposals. This is not required by the Scottish Government’s temporary regulations, but SSC considered it was important to ensure that everyone possible had an opportunity to comment on the draft proposals.

SSC project director Scott Hammond said: “We would much prefer to be holding the exhibition where people could come along in person. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are unable to do so.

“We would like to emphasise that this is a pre-application public engagement event, which outlines our initial draft proposals in very general terms at this stage.

“A further opportunity to make comments on the proposals will be available, prior to submitting our full planning application to Shetland Islands Council later in the year, once the detail has evolved in tandem with the Environmental Impact Assessment that we have commissioned.”

Trip to Cape Canaveral up for grabs for winner of space art contest

The winner of a children’s competition for the best drawing or painting on the theme of Shetland and space will secure a trip for two to Cape Canaveral.

The contest for local children between the ages of five and 18 has been organised by Shetland Space Centre, which is developing plans for a vertical rocket launch site and ground station in Unst.

“We know that Shetland is blessed with great artistic ability among young folk, and this is an opportunity for you to show off your skills,” said Shetland Space Centre administrator Carol Duncan.

“There is an exciting prize for the winner – a trip to Cape Canaveral in Florida with your dad or mum or guardian when the Covid-19 lockdown is over.

“So we hope that you take up the challenge during this time when a lot of us are working from our kitchen tables to impress us.”

The entries, on the theme of Shetland and space, will be judged by a panel comprised of Graeme Howell, chief executive of Shetland Arts, Unst artist Pat Cerasale, Ms Duncan and Yvette Hopkins, SSC director of Shetland operations.

Entries should be scanned and emailed in PDF or JPG format to [email protected] along with the child’s name, parent or guardian’s name, address and contact telephone number. The closing date is Monday 24th August.

A selection of the artworks will be displayed on the SSC website.

The prize will consist of flights for two from Shetland to Orlando, seven nights’ accommodation, car rental, tours of the Kennedy Space Centre and Cape Canaveral Nature Reserve and Disney tickets. Dates will be agreed depending on availability.

 

Unst airfield set for new lease of life as space industry hub

Shetland Space Centre is to exercise its option to lease the Ordale Airfield at Baltasound in Unst as it gears up for spaceflight activity.

The regeneration of the site, which opened in 1968 and served fixed-wing and helicopter traffic for the North Sea oil and gas industry until 1996, is regarded as an important step in attracting the international space industry to the isles.

It is envisaged that the airfield, which is less than 5km from the proposed launch site at Lamba Ness, will be used firstly for fuel and equipment storage as well as housing small business incubators supporting spaceflight activity on the island.

The airfield was used in July 2019 for the successful test launch of a balloon by B2Space in conjunction with SSC.

SSC intends to refurbish the airfield lighting system and hangar in order that clients may use the 640m runway to fly in and out as required.

SSC CEO Frank Strang said: “Without doubt having an airfield with associated infrastructure close to the launch site is a huge benefit to the embryonic Shetland space industry, and is another reason along with its location why Shetland is seen as the optimal place for vertical launch activity in the UK.

“The airfield will not be as busy as it was in the early 1990s, but this will be the first step towards bringing in limited commercial traffic.”

 

 

Further views sought on airspace change

In accordance with Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) process, Shetland Space Centre is seeking further views on a change to the status of the airspace around its proposed Lamba Ness rocket launch site.

A questionnaire, available from the SSC website or by post upon request, forms part of this stage of engagement and is designed to help SSC identify affected parties (stakeholders).

It is important that the views of stakeholders are considered at an early stage in the process, and therefore your responses to these questions are important to allow us to understand what our key areas of consideration should be for a successful airspace change process.

Due to the current public health situation we are happy to accept replies via our website; to access the online form, please click on the link below.

https://airspace-change.shetlandspacecentre.com/

Please save the file that includes your responses and attach to an email to the following address:

[email protected] 

Paper copies are available by emailing [email protected] and leaving your postal address.

Please ensure that your response is returned to us no later than 3rd April 2020.

 

 

Covid-19

Shetland Space Centre is continuing to operate during the Covid-19 pandemic, having adapted our working practices to protect staff and ultimately the general public.

The dates for the public exhibitions relating to our planning application, to be held at Saxa Vord Resort on 5th, 6th and 7th May, have not changed but will be kept under review. Stay healthy everyone.

Space centre receives initial £2 million investment boost

Shetland Space Centre’s (SSC) plan to build and operate a satellite launch site has been given a major boost by a £2,050,000 investment from Leonne International, the international private equity firm.

The cash injection, which gives Leonne a 20 per cent stake in the business, will be used for future growth of the company, such as the development of the launch site and ground station in Unst.

This was identified in the Sceptre Report, an independent report commissioned for the UK Space Agency, as the optimal location in the UK for launching small satellites into space, a rapidly growing sector of the international economy.

SSC’s integrated business model creates revenues from launch, ground and tourism. Shetland’s space economy should be seen as a unique and very valuable asset to the UK where it can support the work done by the other sector initiatives and clusters in the rapidly growing “New Space” economy.

SSC also has support from within the Unst and broader Shetland communities, as well as a proactive and supportive relationship with the local authority, Shetland Islands Council. Critically, the landowner and crofting community have recognised the benefits both locally and to Scotland and the UK and have agreed to lease the required land to the project and SSC does not anticipate any major environmental issues.

SSC intends to create an international exemplar by developing a green space centre and showcasing that space and its numerous applications are a ”force for good” as well as creating employment and attracting new business opportunities to Shetland in particular.

For the last two-and-a-half years SSC has been developing its plans and collaborating with space industry giants such as Lockheed Martin, Aecom and ArianeGroup and also working closely with legitimate industry newcomers such as Rocket Factory Augsburg and Skyrora, the Edinburgh-domiciled Scottish Launch Provider, Raptor Aerospace, B2Space and C6 as well as Scottish Enterprise, Strathclyde and Edinburgh universities and the Technical University of Munich.

SSC has also partnered with Goonhilly and the Cornwall Space Centre, ensuring the UK makes the most of its geography by having a space footprint at both its northern and southern tips. SSC is also working very closely with Faroese Telecom as it seeks to build relationships around the Arctic economy.

Frank Strang, CEO of Shetland Space Centre, said: “We are delighted to have Leonne International as a partner in realising the benefits of space exploration for the UK, and for Shetland’s economy: bringing jobs, revitalising the economy, attracting visitors and establishing Shetland as a northern hub supporting vertical launch and ground station activity. Mike Haston and his team at Leonne International bring tremendous enthusiasm, drive and belief to the business which will turbo charge an already dynamic and fast moving project. Just as his grandfather Dougal, a thoughtful visionary and one of Scotland’s legendary rock climbers, pioneered Scottish winter climbing and conquered the world’s biggest and most dangerous mountains, I have no doubt that Mike will lead the way into this next frontier and help us conquer the new space economy for Britain.

“Importantly, the investment enables us to proceed with the first stages of gaining the necessary permissions and licences required to operate the facility and get on with building our launch site and ground station.

“Furthermore, the funding validates what we and, crucially, the wider space industry has been saying for several years now – that Shetland is absolutely the right location for kick-starting the UK’s entry into this rapidly growing market.”

Michael Haston, CEO, Leonne International, said: “We are always excited to partner with firms which exhibit ambition, innovation and excitement, and Shetland Space Centre exceeds this criteria with the plans they have in place for their satellite launch programme.

“With the help of the SSC, Shetland’s space economy is unique and will inevitably become a very valuable asset to the UK.”

 

 

SSC seeks views on change to airspace status around planned launch site

Shetland Space Centre is seeking views on a change to the status of the airspace around its proposed Lamba Ness rocket launch site.

In accordance with Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules, before launches can take place an “airspace change” process must be undertaken, ensuring that rockets are protected from other air users.

An online questionnaire is available for stakeholders and members of the public to complete via this link: https://airspace-change.shetlandspacecentre.com/

Drop-in sessions will also be held in Lerwick on Thursday 19th December from 4pm-7pm in the Mareel foyer and in Unst on Wednesday 8th January from 3pm-6pm in the Saxa Vord main building reception. Forms will be made available for interested parties to fill in.

SSC project director Scott Hammond said: “This is in important part of our preparations for rocket launches from Unst so I would ask anyone with a view on the change of airspace to go online or attend one of our drop-in sessions and complete the questionnaire.

“It is important to emphasise, however, that this separate from our planning application which will come later. Nor does it relate to safety, which will be regulated by government guidelines that are in development.”

Shetland Space Centre to partner with Raptor Aerospace for launch training and sub-orbital launch operations

Shetland Space Centre and Raptor Aerospace Ltd today announced a long-term strategic partnership that will allow both companies to make rapid progress in UK launch activities.

Raptor, based in Norfolk in the east of England, will be delivering training and simulation services to Shetland Space Centre to assist in getting the spaceport launch ready within months.

Raptor has also announced their selection of the Shetland site as their preferred location for all future UK launch activities, including regular sub-orbital payload carrying flights set to begin in 2020.

Ben Jarvis, CEO of Raptor Aerospace, said: “Having looked at all of the possible vertical spaceport sites in the UK it’s simply the right decision for our business to choose the one that is closest to being ready for launch activities to begin.

“The Shetland site already has the facilities and offers the safest clear downrange area for us, making it viable to start launching almost immediately.”

“Frank Strang and the team at SSC have been both welcoming and enthusiastic about what we can offer each other and we can see a hugely beneficial commercial partnership developing between us.”

Frank Strang, CEO of Shetland Space Centre, said: “We’re naturally delighted to be working with Ben and his go-ahead team and look forward to progressing developments in Unst as we capitalise on all the natural attributes that Shetland has for the launch of small satellites into space.”

Raptor Aerospace hope to set up a permanent launch facility at the Shetland site in early 2020 and begin high-altitude commercial payload launches within months.

 

 

Successful test launch of space research balloon

The test launch of a space research balloon from Unst in Shetland has been hailed as a major success.

B2Space now intends to establish a permanent base with Shetland Space Centre (SSC) on the island to work towards full-scale launches of their “rockoon” system.

This will use balloons to transport rockets into the upper atmosphere before they are launched into space. Using the technology will be significantly cheaper than sending rockets into orbit from the ground.

In the meantime, B2Space, which has the backing of the European Space Agency (ESA), will deploy balloons to conduct a series of tests of satellite components in near-space, in conditions similar to those in orbit.

Watch a short video of the launch here.

Valentin Canales and Victor Montero, co-founders of B2Space, said: “We are very pleased with how the test launch has gone.

“We have a large amount of data to analyse, but from what we know already we can confirm that we intend to set up a base here in Unst in preparation for future launches.

“Interest from ESA and the UK Space Agency is huge. We know the technology will work, and this launch was the first step, with many more to come.

“We are really grateful for the support and teamwork from the Shetland Space Centre, from the local supply chain and from the community. We were amazed and delighted by how many people came to watch the launch.”

SSC project director Scott Hammond said: “The balloon launch has been a major success, proving that Unst is the best location for launching into space.

“It was a fantastic opportunity for the SSC team, working with our local partners such as Pure Energy and Ocean Kinetics, backed by Shetland Islands Council and HIE, to conduct a live operation and learn from it, which we have done.

“The support from external agencies such as Civil Aviation Authority, Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Marine Scotland has also been excellent.”

Mr Hammond added: “The SSC team, local firms and the community has come together to make this happen – and this the model for going forward not only to more balloon launches but to a rocket launch site and ground station by 2020-21.”

Balloon test launch marks beginning of space era in Shetland

The UK’s first commercial spaceflight-related activity will take place in Shetland this weekend, with the test launch of a stratospheric balloon for a system that will eventually deliver small satellites into orbit.

The innovative launch system, known as rockoon, has been developed by Bristol-based B2Space, one of the first companies to partner with the Shetland Space Centre (SSC).

The test launch is scheduled to take place at Baltasound Airport in Unst on Sunday 14thJuly, weather-permitting.

B2Space Co-founder Valentin Canales said: “This is very exciting, both for ourselves and for Shetland Space Centre.

“We will be sending a smaller version of the balloon that we will eventually use up to a height of around 37km, carrying a complete set of instruments, trackers and control boards, as well as beaming back live images from an on-board camera.

“The purpose of the test flight is to confirm our ability to operate from Shetland by gathering data, adding to the theoretical study that we have carried out on the last 15 years of weather data.

“We believe it will support our case for a permanent base in Shetland, not only for launches to orbit, but for performing ‘near space operations’, such as testing satellite components in conditions similar to the ones faced in orbit. This is a project we are working with the European Space Agency (ESA) on.”

This technology, launching a rocket from a high-altitude balloon, is an evolution and improvement of a 1950s concept proposed by the US Navy. It takes advantage of skipping the highest density part of the atmosphere which allows a more optimised design and a more cost-effective solution to launch small and micro satellites into low earth orbit.

SSC Project Director Scott Hammond said: “The B2Space balloon launch is the first tangible spaceflight activity in Unst and will mark a truly groundbreaking day for Shetland Space Centre, the islands as a whole, Scotland and the UK.

“It will foreshadow the arrival of a whole new sector in the local economy, with rocket launches to follow from the Lamba Ness site within two years when we can secure all the necessary permissions and the creation later this year of a ground station.”

Local marine engineering firm Ocean Kinetics is supplying a boat to retrieve the balloon when it lands off the coast, while Unst company Pure Energy is also actively supporting the project, which has been part funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

SSC’s sister company The Shetland Distillery will be sending a small packet of botanicals up in the balloon that will be used to make a small batch of gin that should be out of this world.