The project, known as the UK Pathfinder Launch, is planned to be the first-ever vertical small satellite launch from UK soil, from Scotland in 2022.
Previously, the UK conducted a single orbital rocket launch from Australia back in 1971. No rocket has ever been launched to orbit from the UK itself before, something that will be changed next year.
Lockheed Martin has contracted ABL Space Systems, of El Segundo, California, a developer of low-cost launch vehicles and launch systems for the small satellite industry, to supply a rocket and associated launch services for the company’s first UK vertical satellite launch.
It will also be the first UK commercial launch for U.S.-based ABL Space Systems’ new RS1 rocket.
Nik Smith, Regional Director, Lockheed Martin Space, said:
“We are absolutely committed to the success of this programme and the world class capability that ABL Space Systems brings will allow us to build on our long-standing partnership with the UK and strengthen the growth of the UK space sector, aligned to the UK Government’s prosperity and industrial strategy.”
Harry O’Hanley, co-Founder and CEO of ABL Space Systems, said:
“ABL Space Systems is proud to partner with Lockheed Martin on the UK Pathfinder Launch Program. Our team was founded to deliver new launch capabilities, on-demand. We’re thrilled at the opportunity bring our system to Shetland’s launch site and execute this ground-breaking mission with our partners.”
Ian Annett, Deputy CEO, UK Space Agency said:
“We want the UK to be the first in Europe to launch small satellites into orbit, attracting innovative businesses from all over the world, accelerating the development of new technologies and creating hundreds of high-skilled jobs across the whole of the UK. Lockheed Martin’s selection of ABL Space Systems for their UK Pathfinder launch brings us one step closer to realising this ambition – putting the UK firmly on the map as Europe’s leading small satellite launch destination.
In this challenging time, it’s more important than ever that we support technologies that will help create jobs and economic growth, enabling people and businesses across the country to benefit from the commercial opportunities offered by the UK’s growing space sector and the many firms throughout its supply chain.”
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