UK's first vertical rocket launch from Shetland 'ahead of schedule'

Construction of SaxaVord Spaceport, located in Shetland, is ahead of schedule with rocket testing set to begin next year.

SaxaVord Spaceport set to launch UK’s first vertical rocket from Shetland ahead of building schedule Getty Images

The first British vertical rocket set to be launched from the Shetland Isles is ahead of schedule, officials have said.

SaxaVord Spaceport, located at Lamba Ness in Unst, Shetland, saw its first concrete base for a launch stool completed this month.

A total of £19m has been spent on the project to date, with rocket stage testing expected to begin early in 2023.

The first phase of construction will see two launchpads – named Fredo and Elizabeth – developed, with the third – Calum – to be built in phase two.

Preparation is now under way on the first building where rockets will be assembled.

Construction work, which is employing more than 60 people on site, started at the end of March this year.

SaxaVord Spaceport chief executive Frank Strang said: “Our progress has been phenomenal, despite major constraints and significant challenges on a daily basis.

“It is a testament to the huge efforts of our spaceport team, main contractor DITT and sub-contractors such as Unst Plant, a local company created specifically to work on our project.

“More new space history will be made here in Shetland next spring and summer, with the first sub-orbital vertical launches from the UK, followed by vertical orbital launches later in the year.

“Alongside the eagerly anticipated horizontal launch from Cornwall, this will put the UK firmly on the international spaceflight stage.

“We now have seven clients all vying for launch windows – and the good news is that we are ahead of schedule, meaning 2023 is going to be a hugely exciting year.”

It comes after Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) launched a consultation earlier this month to seek views on SaxaVord’s assessment of the environmental effects of the spaceport.

The consultation closes on December 8.

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