The UK Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA) has granted a spaceport licence to SaxaVord, which is located on the north coast of the Shetland Islands, Scotland.

This is the first-ever vertical spaceport to operate in the UK. It will also be the first fully licensed vertical spaceport in Western Europe.

The SaxaVord Spaceport site from the sea
The SaxaVord Spaceport site from the sea

The regular has assessed the spaceport to ensure the necessary safety, security and environmental criteria are met, and that it has the required infrastructure, equipment and services to handle vertical space launches.

There are several launch operators internationally that are developing rockets to launch from SaxaVord. These are at different stages of the assessment process with the CAA.

Scottish satellites using Scottish rockets could also be launched from the spaceport in the not-too-distant future. The licence allows SaxaVord to perform up to 30 launches annually.

Tim Johnson, Director of Space Regulation at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, 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.

Frank Strang, CEO of SaxaVord Spaceport felt this licence placed Scotland at the leading edge of the European and global space economy and said the team was proud the government had entrusted it “with operating a complex, multi-disciplinary and multi-launch spaceport”.

SaxaVord will be subject to an ongoing monitoring programme by the UK CAA to ensure that it is safe and that it does not breach the terms of its licence.

The licence for SaxaVord is the 352nd space activity that has been approved by the UK Civil Aviation Authority since it became the UK’s space regulator in July 2021. It now monitors more than 750 different satellites, has two licensed spaceports, a launch from Cornwall and the OneWeb constellation, which is currently the second-biggest satellite constellation in orbit.

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 space industry in the UK is estimated to be worth 17.5 billion GBP, with 48,800 jobs and more than 2,200 space companies based here.

Matt Archer, Director of Launch, UK Space Agency, said:

The granting of SaxaVord’s spaceport licence by the UK Civil Aviation Authority is a hugely exciting milestone as we look forward to the first vertical launches from UK soil in the coming year.

Getting to this stage is testament to the hard work by SaxaVord Spaceport and partners across government which moves us towards realising our ambitions for the UK to be the leading provider of small satellite launch in Europe by 2030.

Establishing orbital launch capabilities in the UK is already bringing new jobs and investment opportunities to local communities as well as inspiring the next generation to join our growing space sector.


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