SaxaVord Spaceport secures government investment

SaxaVord spaceport with a completed launch stool visible. Photo: SaxaVord Spaceport

SaxaVord spaceport with a completed launch stool visible. Photo: SaxaVord Spaceport

By Hans J Marter,
Published by Shetland News, 6 March 2024

THE UK Government is to invest £10 million into SaxaVord Spaceport to help accelerate its capital works programme.

The announcement was made by Jeremy Hunt, the UK chancellor, during his budget statement in the Commons on Wednesday.

It is the first time the government has committed direct funding into the wider spaceport project itself.

SaxaVord chief executive Frank Strang described the news as a “huge boost” that sends out the signal that the UK Government “is behind us and believes in the Shetland space economy”.

SaxaVord Spaceport is Europe’s first and only licensed vertical launch spaceport, and the expectation is that a first orbital launch should happen from the site on the island of Unst later this year.

Strang said a lot of background work had been going on to secure “this most welcomed £10 million investment”.

Coming in addition to around £40 million of private investment, the government funding will allow SaxaVord to accelerate its capital works programme to ensure it is ready to support the first orbital launch.

Strang added: “I would like to thank the secretary of state for science innovation and technology, the minister of state for science innovation and technology, the chancellor, the secretary of state for Scotland and the UK Space Agency for their confidence in SaxaVord.

“Their support today for both the new space economy and ourselves at SaxaVord will help ensure that the UK leads the way in European spaceflight.

“The global space industry is valued at $530bn annually and rocket company Rocket Factory Augsburg’s launch at SaxaVord this summer will put the UK at the forefront of what is one of the world’s fastest growing sectors – bringing jobs, investment and opportunity.”

North Isles councillor Ryan Thomson also welcomed today’s announcement saying it was good to see the spaceport being support by national government.

Meanwhile, Highlands and Islands development manager at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), David Richardson said: “It’s great news for FSB members Frank and Debbie Strang of theSaxaVord Spaceport in Shetland, who are receiving £10 million to support a launch in 2024.

“It’s not often that a small Highlands & Islands business is singled out for special support in a budget!”

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston, the  deputy convener of the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on space, described the announcement as “a real vote of confidence in the UK’s and Scotland’s growing space sector”.

He added: “SaxaVord is on the verge of its first launch, which is planned to be later this summer, and it’s great to see UK ministers giving their backing to SaxaVord’s exciting future and Shetland’s increasingly important place in the global space industry”.

Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said: “The £10m investment in SaxaVord Space Centre in Shetland is welcome as they ramp up to the UK’s first vertical space launch this year.

“It is entirely right that we invest in the industries of the future and in quality jobs for island communities. The other half of the equation must involve a recognition of the need for tunnels so that we can unlock our full potential.”

Party colleague and Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said she knew the SaxaVord team would be “over the moon” at this news.

“This is a significant investment and confirmation of the confidence in SaxaVord Spaceport, Europe’s only licensed vertical launch spaceport.

“With the first ever orbital launch due later this year, supporting the emerging satellite industry, SaxaVord is leading the way.”

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