READY FOR LIFT OFF:
SHETLAND JOINS SCOTLAND’S SPACE RACE
Shetland could be the “ideal location” for Britain’s first spaceport after an official report highlighted a number of major factors in its favour.
The UK Space Agency’s Sceptre Report, part-financed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, naming Unst triggered a wave of interest from business and the military on the island.
Subsequently, businessman Frank Strang and former RAF fighter pilot Scott Hammond set up the Shetland Space Centre Ltd to develop viable sites.
Mr Strang said: “It is clear that the former Ministry of Defence aerial farm north of Saxa Vord hill, or the old MoD site at Lamba Ness, would be ideal for satellite launches.
“It’s exciting, but this is a long game and we will be working together with Shetland Islands Council, the UK Space Agency and other stakeholders to progress our plans.”
Local MSP Tavish Scott strongly backed the move to win the spaceport bid. He said: “Unst is the best geographic location for satellite launches in the UK.”
Mr Scott added: “To win the bid we need the Scottish Government and its main agency HIE to be 100% behind Unst. As Unst is the location that industry wants, that should be straightforward.
The reopened RAF radar station at Saxa Vord provides an added incentive, according to the MSP as “no
“Unstisthe bestlocation forsatellite launchesinUK”
other site in Scotland can offer this service. So there are huge advantages to the Unst case.”
According to the Sceptre report one of the great strengths of the Unst site is the ability to offer “the maximum payload mass to orbit”.
Regulations state that spacecraft must not fly over populated areas and north of the island provides a clear route for “both SSO (Sun-Synchronous) and Polar orbits.”
Other sites would necessitate so-called dog-leg turns away from restricted areas which would restrict the size of the payload.
Any development of the Saxa Vord site would be a boon to the Shetland Islands finances with the space industry worth £ 13.7billion to the UK economy annually.
Among the other locations being considered are Campbeltown, Glasgow Prestwick, Stornoway, Newquay, Cornwall and Llanbedr in Wales.
PRIME SPOT: Saxa Vord in Shetland has been named as one potential site for launching satellites BY SCOTT MACLENNAN
Frank Strang: long game