Skyrora agrees decade-long launch deal with Shetland spaceport

By Peter A Walker

Rocket company Skyrora has agreed a multi-launch deal with the SaxaVord spaceport on Unst, the most northerly of the Shetland Islands, as it moves closer to launching its XL rocket in 2022.

This is the first agreement Skyrora has made with a Scottish Spaceport. If successful, this could be the first rocket to go to space from the UK.

The deal with SaxaVord will run for the next decade, giving Skyrora the ability to build towards its target of 16 launches a year by 2030.

According to a study by Scottish Enterprise last year, forecast income from Scotland's space sector could reach around £2bn by 2030. The Scottish space sector has already grown 12% year-on-year, while the UK as a whole has grown 3%.

Once operational, the SaxaVord spaceport is expected to create 140 jobs locally, with an additional 70 jobs across the Shetland.

Shetland Space Centre recently changed its name to SaxaVord Spaceport.

Skyrora has been testing increasingly larger rockets with short high-altitude launches since 2018 in the build up to the proposed launch next year. Last year, it conducted the first rocket test on UK soil in 50 years, as well as launching its Skylark Micro from Iceland.

These preparations have been gradually moving towards ultimately launching the three-stage Skyrora XL rocket to orbit, standing over 22 metres tall and capable of carrying up to 315 kilograms to orbit.

Skyrora’s aim is to create more than 170 jobs by 2030. In just the last few months, the team has expanded by 30%.

Founder and chief executive Volodymyr Levykin said: “We have made no secret of our ambition to be the first company to launch from UK soil so it's really exciting to agree to this multi-launch deal with SaxaVord.

We are proud to be at the forefront of space innovation in the UK, deploying our assets and helping to unlock exciting opportunities as part of the new space economy.”

Frank Strang, chief executive of Saxavord Spaceport, added: “As we look forward to launches from Unst next year, this is yet another exciting development and we look forward to working with the Skyrora team to help them meet their goal of delivering their XL rocket into orbit.”

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