By August 26, 2019 Read More →

Innovation grant for balloon launch evaluation at Shetland

While Sutherland Space Hub and Spaceport Cornwall have both been approved as sites for UK space launch operations, and Prestwyck has been making a strong argument as a further horizontal launch location, Shetland has been quietly building its own case a launch site. Now a project to evaluate the suitability of Shetland as a location to launch rockets using air balloons has been awareded a £15,000 innovation grant from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

The Shetland Space Centre (SSC) has been working with B2Space, a company that offers access to low earth orbit for small and micro satellites. In July it ran a test of a system known as rockoon, which deploys large air balloons to launch rockets from the edge of the earth’s atmosphere.

The HIE funding will go towards the commercial and technical evaluation of using the system in Shetland. This includes assessing the current facilities and development plans and providing recommendations as to how such operations might be best hosted at the Shetland Space Centre.

John MacKenzie, senior development manager with HIE, said: “This is an ambitious and innovative project by the SSC. We are very pleased to be providing support for the commercial and technical evaluation and look forward to the findings of this work.”

The SSC’s ambitions do not end there. As we reported in the February issue of Space Industry Bulletin, SSC believes it can provide a rival to Sutherland as the UK’s vertical launch spaceport.

While equator launch positions are more desirable, the UK Space Agency sees value in facilities based in Scotland for polar and sun-synchronous orbits, poplular for many new satellite constellations planned over the next ten years.

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