First rocket launched from Shetland Islands could start UK space exploration

The data gathered from the launch could be used to develop a UK spaceport

Adam Smith
Tuesday 16 June 2020 12:06
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The Shetland Islands have had their first sub-orbital rocket launched last weekend.

A 2m rocket called the Skylark Nano launched from the islands and reached an altitude of six kilometres.

It was launched by the private company Skyrora, which also handled the UK’s first rocket test in 50 years.

The company says that the launch was for educational purposes.

It measured meteorological data, wind profiles, and analysing the vehicles trajectory for pertinent information that could be used in future launches.

The Skylark Nano has been launched twice before, with its first in 2018, although this is the first time it has taken off from the Shetland Islands.

“The launch signifies a vital step towards Skyrora’s ambitions to become the UK’s “go-to” satellite launch provider. We’re ecstatic and truly proud. This is a great success for Skylark Nano, and the Skyrora team in general.” said Robin Hague, Head of Launch.

“Launching from Shetland is very important for us because it’s a potential option for our Skyrora XL orbital commercial launch vehicle. To understand the local launch conditions learning more about the wind profiles in Shetland is critical.”

Skyrora XL is a three-stage rocket which the company hopes will carry satellites into sun-synchronous orbit.

This trip would be over a range of 500km, and a 1000km altitude.

It is 22.7m long, eleven times as long as the Nano, and could carry payloads of up to 315kg.

“For Skyrora this test was all about learning and training” said company CEO Volodymyr Levykin. “The innovation at Skyrora is enormous, not only are we producing high quality results, but we are doing so with minimum impact to the environment as we strive to develop eco-friendly technology in our launches.”

The Shetland Islands are one of three proposed spaceports in Scotland, with the company’s intention being to start launching from a UK-based spaceport from 2022.

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