Shetlands spaceport could see launch every month as firm counts down to rocket lift off | UK News

A German company is set to use the Shetland Islands to send rockets into space – with plans to launch at least one a month.

Rocket Factory Augsburg’s (RFA) chief commercial officer said excitement is building ahead of their “Olympic gold medal” moment this summer.

If everything goes to plan, it will be Europe’s first-ever launch delivering satellites into orbit.

Jorn Spurmann told the PA news agency the RFA One launcher – a 30m-tall three-stage rocket – is capable of delivering a 1,300kg payload to a sun-synchronous orbit around Earth.

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He said “everything looks positive” for the first launch taking place in the summer but much will depend on their testing process.

The SaxaVord spaceport in Unst. Pic: SaxaVord
The SaxaVord spaceport in Unst. Pic: SaxaVord

RFA One's rocket engine undergoing a 'hot test'. Pic: Rocket Factory Augsburg / PA Wire
RFA One’s rocket engine undergoing a ‘hot test’. Pic: Rocket Factory Augsburg / PA Wire

Mr Spurmann said: “We plan to be on pad in the summer and start the (testing) campaign.

“Then we have an anticipated first launch attempt and we see how it goes.”

He added: “We have on the Shetland Islands a dedicated launch pad purely for RFA. So, there’s no time pressure for us.”

RFA’s team of about 300 people will see the first successful launch as an “Olympic gold medal” moment, Mr Spurmann said, as the project has been years in the making.

The company is one of several planning to use launch pads at SaxaVord Spaceport on the island of Unst, the most northerly of the Shetland Islands.

In December, SaxaVord was granted the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport licence, allowing up to 30 launches each year.

Mr Spurmann said people on Unst, which has a population of around 600, were supportive of the project.

“The locals, they pretty much realise what a big opportunity it is for them.”

A “hot test” of the rocket’s first-stage engines at the launch pad is expected in the months ahead of the first flight.

Ultimately, RFA wants to re-use the lower stage of its rockets in order to generate savings, similar to the Falcon series of rockets used by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

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