A SCOTLAND-based rocket company has signed a deal with a Shetland spaceport that could see the first journeys to space from the UK by next year.
Skyrora, which has its headquarters in Edinburgh, has agreed a multi-launch deal over the next decade for the site on Unst, the most northerly of the Shetland Islands.
The company hopes to send its 23-metre long, 56-tonne XL rocket to deliver satellites into orbit from 2022.
The multi-launch agreement with SaxaVord will run for the next decade, giving Skyrora the ability to build towards a target of 16 launches a year by 2030.
Once operational, the SaxaVord Spaceport is expected to create 140 jobs locally, with an additional 70 jobs across Shetland.
Volodymyr Levykin, Skyrora founder and chief executive, 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.
“The UK is a world leader in space technology, and this latest move brings us another crucial step closer to offering a significant space service from our own soil.”
Frank Strang, chief executive of Saxavord Spaceport, said: “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.
“The SaxaVord Spaceport location and the can-do attitude of our team mean we are perfectly placed to support Skyrora’s endeavours.”
In May this year, Skyrora carried out the first full ground static fire rocket trial in the UK for half a century at the Kildermorie Estate near Alness in the Highlands.
It was the first vertical test of that magnitude in the UK since the Black Arrow programme 50 years ago.
At the end of last year, the company also successfully completed trials of the third stage of the Skyrora XL rocket, including its orbital transfer vehicle, a vehicle that once in orbit can refire its engines to complete tasks such as acting as a space tug, maintenance, or de-orbiting of defunct satellites.
The vehicle will be used to address the increasing volume of space debris orbiting Earth, one of the biggest problems facing the global space industry.
Skyrora plans to fuel the rocket with its own more-sustainable alternative to conventional rocket fuel, Ecosene, which is made from waste plastic such as polystyrene.