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.

Public’s views to be sought on spaceport prosposals

Members of the public will be given the opportunity to comment on proposals for a spaceport to launch small vertical rockets from Unst during a series of exhibitions in early May.

It follows the submission this week by Shetland Space Centre of its formal proposal of application notice to Shetland Islands Council prior to a full planning submission in June.

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 launch control and range control centres at the Saxa Vord Resort complex and to construct a new section of access road through Northdale, which is situated just north of the former RAF base. The latter will be the subject of two smaller separate planning applications.

SSC CEO Frank Strang said: “After a three-year battle to win recognition for Unst’s position as a prime location for launching small vertical rockets into space, we are now in a position to go to the public with our proposals.

“We have been delighted with the tremendous support we have had in Unst and hope that as many people as possible can make it to the exhibitions. If you can’t make it along, you will be able to comment online.

“This is a hugely exciting time for myself and the SSC team. Together with all our partners, we stand ready to deliver a whole new branch of the space industry for Unst, Shetland, Scotland and the UK.”

The public exhibitions will be held at the Saxa Vord Resort in Unst on 5th, 6th and 7th May from 12-7pm each day.

A dedicated section of the Shetland Space Centre website will also be created to allow anyone unable to attend the exhibitions to comment. This will be available from 5th May until two weeks after the exhibitions.

Consultation will also be undertaken with Unst Community Council, members of Shetland Islands Council, the local MSP and MP, site and neighbouring landowners and local interest groups.

 

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.

North and south form UK partnership to develop new space capabilities

North and south form UK partnership to develop new space capabilities

Shetland Space Centre (SSC) and Goonhilly Earth Station have joined forces to develop rocket launch and tracking business capabilities for the burgeoning new space launch sector.

The two companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) committing them to collaborate on a range of projects as the UK’s space sector flourishes.

Projects include working together to support both Shetland’s and Cornwall’s aspirations for both vertical and horizontal UK space launches.

The firms will jointly promote and deliver launch, monitoring and tracking capabilities from the two sites at the extremities of the UK.

SSC is planning to construct a commercial rocket launch centre on the island of Unst and is developing a teleport and other space-related ground infrastructure, while Goonhilly will invest in and install a new highly capable tracking antenna on Unst. The two firms will also co-develop data centres in both Unst and Cornwall.

Frank Strang, CEO of SSC, said: “As soon as we met the team from Goonhilly, we all recognised that there are potentially huge benefits from collaborating. We have a shared drive and determination to increase the footprint of the UK space industry, from launches on UK soil to a huge range of ground station activities.”

Ian Jones, CEO of Goonhilly, added: “We’re really looking forward to working with the Shetland Space Centre team at this hugely exciting time in the development of UK launch activity.

“We’re already working with Spaceport Cornwall to support horizontal launch. Shetland is the obvious choice for supporting vertical launch – there’s infrastructure, data connectivity and transport links already in place, in addition to the vitally important clear air space towards polar and sun-synchronous orbits.

“I think it’s obvious that Shetland is recognised as the best location by key launch companies. The team at SSC have the skills and determination to make this a viable business opportunity.”

About Shetland Space Centre

Shetland Space Centre Ltd was formed in 2017 by Frank and Debbie Strang. Five people are employed full-time on the project working towards securing planning permission for the satellite launch facility. The company is working closely with the local community and Shetland Islands Council to ensure maximum benefit from what will be a major new sector of the local and national economy.

About Goonhilly

Goonhilly is a global communications services hub and satellite station located in Cornwall, UK. It provides a comprehensive range of leading-edge connectivity and operational solutions to the space industry, GEO, MEO and LEO satellite fleet operators, broadcasters, as well as a wide diversity of enterprises seeking to grow their businesses on earth and in near and deep space. Customers include SES, Intelsat, Eutelsat and Inmarsat, as well as space agencies, governments, broadcasters and others. Since 2014 the partners in Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd. have been focused on building the company and investing in the site. Goonhilly has Enterprise Zone status – the government’s flagship programme for technology parks. www.goonhilly.org