Astra announces new plan for United Kingdom

 Tuesday, May 17, 2022 

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The U.K. space race is picking up momentum with several spaceports and rocket companies promising to start launching soon. California-based Astra Space, which launched its first successful commercial mission in March this year, has now joined the fray, signing an agreement with a spaceport on Shetland Islands. This gives a boost in scientific research and tourism industry also.

Astra, which gives small satellites dedicated rides to orbit, has already launched from Kodiak Island in Alaska and from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Adding a location in Scotland will help the company offer a wider range of orbital inclinations to their clients, the firm said in a statement.

Astra said it will launch as early as 2023 from the SaxaVord spaceport in the Shetland Islands, off the northern coast of Scotland. Construction of this spaceport has only recently begun, but other companies, including Lockheed Martin, are also committed to launching from this location.

Matt Ganser, vice president of business operations at Astra said that the additional inclinations, flexibility and launch capacity that this partnership enables will allow us to meet the needs of Astra’s customers and align directly with SaxaVord UK Spaceport’s economic investment and environmental goals.

A rival spaceport, Space Hub Sutherland, is being built on the northern coast of Scotland about 185 miles (30 kilometers) south of the Shetlands, with the goal of hosting a launch of a domestically built rocket called Prime by early 2023.

Saxavord and Space Hub Sutherland will both provide infrastructure for vertical launches of conventional rockets. In addition to that, Spaceport Cornwall, a converted airport on the southwestern coast of England, will enable horizontal launches from aircraft. Cornwall expects to see the first launch of Virgin Orbit this summer, in what will become the first orbital launch from U.K. soil.

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