UK's first vertical spaceport, owned by husband and wife team on remote Scottish island, gets lift-off

17 December 2023, 14:36

Computer-generated image of how a launch could look at the site
Computer-generated image of how a launch could look at the site. Picture: SaxaVord

By Kit Heren

The UK's first vertical-launch spaceport has been given a licence to send satellites into orbit.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

SaxaVord, owned by the husband-and-wife team of Frank and Debbie Strang, was granted the licence by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The spaceport is on Unst, the northernmost of the Shetland Islands, about 170 miles north of mainland Scotland.

Launches are set to begin in 2024, after the regulator verified that the privately-owned facility met health and safety requirements.

SaxaVord will cater to companies who want to send satellites into polar, sun-synchronous orbits. The spaceport, which is on a former RAF base on a remote peninsular of Unst, is licensed for 30 launches per year.

Read more: Astronauts return to Earth after accidentally spending a year in space and going around the world 6,000 times

Read more: 'Newquay, we have a problem': Historic mission fails as UK's first space rocket stumbles on 'anomaly'

Frank and Debbie Strang took over the site 19 years ago
Frank and Debbie Strang took over the site 19 years ago. Picture: Alamy

Tim Johnson, director of space regulation at the CAA, said: "Granting SaxaVord their licence is an era-defining moment for the UK space sector.

"This marks the beginning of a new chapter for UK space as rockets may soon launch satellites into orbit from Scotland.

"We are undertaking vital work to make sure the UK's space activities are safe and sustainable for all."

Just under £30 million has been spent on developing the spaceport, which includes three launch pads and a hangar for assembling rockets.

German companies Rocket Factory Augsburg and HyImpulse hope to carry out launches from SaxaVord in 2024.

SaxaVord is on a remote Scottish island
SaxaVord is on a remote Scottish island. Picture: Alamy

Mr Strang said the award of the licence is "historic", adding: "Our team is very proud that the Government has entrusted us with operating a complex, multi-disciplinary and multi-launch spaceport, and we all take this responsibility very seriously.

"There is much to do still but this is a fantastic way to end the year and head into Christmas."

He and his wife took over the former RAF base in 2004. They also have plans for a hotel and visitor centre at SaxaVord.

Both the UK and Scottish governments welcomed the news of the licence.

UK Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: "The United Kingdom's space industry is growing, with SaxaVord set for lift-off to become this country's first vertical spaceport.

"Today's historic announcement will boost Shetland's economy and put the United Kingdom at the forefront of spaceflight innovation."

The Scottish Government's innovation minister Richard Lochhead said: "This milestone heralds a new era for space in Scotland.

"As the UK's first licensed vertical spaceport, SaxaVord and Scotland can soon be a gateway to space, deploying cutting-edge small satellites into orbit for international and domestic customers alike."

While Cornwall Spaceport became the UK's first licensed spaceport, SaxaVord's licence allows it to host vertical launches rather than horizontal launches of rockets carried by aircraft.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Callum the stag was "humanely euthanised".

Tourists blamed for death of 'legendary' stag after it was fed Rice Krispies and croissants

The Reform UK leader's comments came as he spoke to supporters at a rally in Kent on Tuesday, slamming the current government's ability to control immigration.

Farage warns of Channel migrant 'invasion' from countries 'with terrorism, gang culture and war zones'

Gavin Plumb is accused of plotting to kidnap Holly Willoughby

Obsessed security guard ‘plotted to keep Holly Willoughby in dungeon where screams couldn't be heard for miles'

At least two people have died in the fire

At least two dead as Moscow defence research centre bursts into flames ‘with staff trapped inside’

Parisians along River Seine, below Cathedral Notre Dame celebrate Fête de la Musique - annual city-wide music festival each June

British woman 'gang-raped in Paris at music festival'

Florida rapper Julio Foolio has been shot dead

Florida rapper Julio Foolio shot dead during his birthday in Florida

Meg Bellamy played Kate Middleton in The Crown

The Crown star Meg Bellamy reveals trolls branded her 'too fat' to play Kate in the show

Jay Slater's father has urged people to come forward if they have any information on his son's disappearance

'Someone must know something': Jay Slater's father speaks out as search for missing son stretches into second week

Security guard who plotted to kidnap, rape and murder Holly Willoughby previously held other women against their will

Security guard who plotted to kidnap, rape and murder Holly Willoughby previously held other women against their will

Princess Diana's family home in Mayfair has gone on sale for the first time in decades

'A trophy home with royal connections': Mayfair townhouse where Diana met Dodi on sale for £11m

A shopping centre security guard from Essex, spent almost two years plotting to kidnap and kill Holly Willoughby.

'Obsessed' security guard spent almost two years 'plotting to kidnap, rape and murder' Holly Willoughby

Princess Anne has been injured by a horse

Princess Anne rushed to hospital with concussion after being kicked in the head by horse on country estate

Rishi Sunak has said he is not aware of any other candidates being investigated in the Conservative gambling scandal

Sunak says he's not being investigated in Tory betting scandal and is 'unaware of other candidates being looked at'

Lucy Letby tells retrial she never intended to harm babies in her care

Lucy Letby tells her retrial she never tried to harm any babies in her care

Frederick Allard has been jailed

Predator landlord jailed after demanding sexual favours from women in exchange for reduced rent

Jay Slater's family have shared an image of what is believed to be the last sighting of him

Spanish police issue update on missing Jay Slater after family share CCTV of mystery figure believed to be teen