A message to the Unst community

This is an update on what the project team has been up to during the Covid-19 lockdown with regards to community consultation. Work has been continuing at pace, although inevitably not as rapidly as it might have during normal times. Unfortunately, much of the work has to be done remotely.

Most significantly from a community point of view, we have been preparing for the exhibition, in just over a week’s time, that is a requirement of our having submitted a pre-planning application notification (PAN) to Shetland Islands Council. Every household in Unst has been sent details of this in two separate leaflets. Ideally, we would have loved for this to have been a series of face-to-face sessions, but unfortunately due the lockdown it is impossible to hold public events. There can be no substitute for physical interaction, but the Scottish Government has put in place temporary measures that allow us and other projects around the country to engage virtually.

To avoid any misunderstanding, this is not our full planning application, which among other things will require a range of studies, including but not limited to natural heritage (including birds), noise and vibration, transport and access and health and safety. When the lockdown has been eased, we will be able to complete all of this work, which will then feed into an Environmental Impact Assessment that will be submitted as part of the full planning application, hopefully in September.  We are bound by statutory process in how we approach this and to deviate would be a clear breach of the planning guidelines, therefore we must adhere to the protocols which we are sure you will all appreciate.

The PAN provides a general description or outline of what Shetland Space Centre is proposing, and during the exhibition we will be able to answer any questions that you might have.

Far from trying to impose any kind of control or limit, we will welcome all and any questions during the three sessions that will form the exhibition. Naturally, some of you will have concerns, and we will address those in an open and transparent way. If you are unable to participate in the exhibition, the leaflets contain details of alternative means of contacting the team.

Our message on this could not be clearer.

We will also welcome any ideas or suggestions that you feel may be appropriate that would enable us to do things better.

It is important that these questions/suggestions are posed as part of the exhibition or via the alternative means referred to above because they will then become a formal element of the planning process and be taken account of as we move to the next stage.

The PAN exhibition is only the beginning of the community engagement – we will continue to liaise with you in the weeks and months ahead. Over the next month or so we will be appointing an education and community engagement officer to ensure that we are contactable and engaged as much as possible.

Apart from our PAN preparations, we are in daily contact with our industry partners throughout the world as well as the UK Space Agency, the Scottish Government and the Ministry of Defence among others building up the case for a sustainable space economy in Shetland. We are also engaged with SIC on a joint approach to elicit support for Unst from the Scottish Government’s Islands Deal, which if successful could benefit both Unst and Uist.

We look forward to welcoming you – and your questions – at the exhibition next week. Please log on, or contact us via the email or phone number provided in the leaflet.

 

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.

 

Seeking views from Aviation & Non-Aviation Stakeholders on the Airspace Design Principles

Shetland Space Centre (SSC) is seeking views from Aviation & Non-Aviation Stakeholders on the Airspace Design Principles as part of the next stage of the airspace change around the proposed Lamba Ness rocket launch site.

As part of the ongoing development of a Spaceport on Unst, Shetland, SSC is undertaking an “airspace change” process with the Civil Aviation Authority, this is to ensure that the rockets and other air users are protected.

An online questionnaire is available till the 8th of May 2020 for members of the public to complete via this link: https://airspace-change.shetlandspacecentre.com/

 

Please note that this is separate from our planning application which will come later.

Statement on SSC and Leonne International

Shetland Space Centre has been the subject of adverse comment in some sections of the media within the last month. This relates to the investment in the project by Michael Haston through Leonne International. The Board of Shetland Space Centre wishes to make clear that the company has received and continues to receive funds from Leonne in full compliance with the legal agreement signed more than a month ago. Moreover, Shetland Space Centre has carried out due diligence checks and the Board is entirely satisfied that Leonne is a legitimate funder.

The only possible conclusion is that individuals with their own agenda are intent on smearing our project by resorting to innuendo and insinuation. They should know that while this activity is distressing and frustrating for the project team, particularly during a global medical and economic crisis, their attempts to discredit us will only encourage us to work harder to fulfil our aim of building a vertical launch site, thus bringing the space economy to Shetland, Scotland and the UK.

Frank Strang MBE

CEO

On behalf of the Board of Shetland Space Centre

A message from our CEO

As the country responds to the pandemic, and as our governments in Edinburgh and Westminster rally and put in Herculean shifts to ensure all that can be done is being done to alleviate the suffering, it is important that we in the space industry continue to look to the future and prepare for life after Covid-19.

If ever there was a time for a “new” industry to excite the nation and bring employment opportunities to both the current and next generation, it is now. By definition space is a fast moving, agile and exciting sector. We need to bring those attributes to the fore and ensure that the UK is ready to hit the ground running once the dark days are gone. Remember there are two sides to the moon, and we will come back into the sunlight just as Michael Collins did in 1969.

All of us, from the launch sites, north and south, the launch providers and the satellite manufacturers throughout the space ecosystem, must pull together to support the UK Space Agency and ensure we are ready for lift off next year.

We owe it to those who have been hardest hit by the outbreak and equally those who are giving so much to support those less fortunate. I have no doubts that all our colleagues in the industry feel the same as we do, and are continuing just like our SSC team to work day in day out to ensure we don’t miss a beat in our quest to deliver the new space economy.

Space is a truly international business and this dreadful virus has affected our clients, friends and colleagues from France, Germany, Ukraine, Canada, the USA, the Faroe Islands, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Italy and India as well as here in the UK. Judging from the Facebook comments and posts I read daily, no one is going to let Covid-19 get in the way of our collective progress. There will be challenges to us all over the next six months or so, but most of us are well used to battling through, and no matter how hard the fight it will not compare with the battle faced by those afflicted on a day to day basis.

The message is: “We in Shetland are not stopping in our quest to deliver success for both Shetland and the rest of the country, and will do our best to support all our friends and colleagues in the space family as we all strive to bring some hope and no little excitement to these dark times.” It’s not quite business as usual as we need to move faster to stay ahead of the virus, but I could not be prouder of our own team who have not missed a beat and continue to work incredibly hard on our project to deliver for not just Shetland, but the international community.

To quote Ron Garan (astronaut): “If we can adopt the same collaborative mindset and practices that got us to the Moon and back, and that built the International Space Station, we can alleviate poverty … and do much more.” Such as alleviating Covid-19!

Stay healthy and well

Frank

CEO SSC

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.”