WASHINGTON — Astra announced May 10 that it plans to launch from a spaceport in the Shetland Islands beginning in 2023 as part of its international expansion plans.
Astra said it is partnering with SaxaVord Spaceport to provide launch services from that facility, located on the island of Unst, the northernmost of the Shetland Islands. Those launches would begin in 2023 pending final agreements and regulatory approvals.
Astra, which has so far launched from Kodiak, Alaska, and Cape Canaveral, Florida, has emphasized both the mobility of its launch system and its desire to expand to locations outside the United States. SaxaVord would be the first spaceport outside the United States from which Astra is launched.
“Our entire launch system is mobile and can be easily and discreetly transported anywhere in the world in a standard ISO shipping container by truck, ship, train or cargo plane,” said Chris Kemp, CEO of Astra, on a May 5 earnings call. , adding that the company requires six people to set up the launch system. “Our mobile launch system also enables our allies, governments that do not have access to space, to quickly establish their own sovereign space launch capabilities by partnering with Astra.”
“The additional tilts, 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,” said Matt Gansler, vice president of operations. Astra commercials, in a statement about the deal.
Astra is not the first US company to announce plans to launch from SaxaVord. Lockheed Martin, which won an award from the British government in 2018 to carry out a launch from the UK, announced in 2021 that it would carry out that launch using an RS1 rocket from ABL Space Systems, a small launch vehicle developer in which Lockheed has invested. and bought pitches from . That launch of the “UK Pathfinder” is scheduled for later this year, although ABL has yet to make a first launch of its RS1 vehicle.
“This agreement between SaxaVord Spaceport and Astra is great news for Shetland and represents another step towards our shared ambition to bring vertical launch satellite capability to Scotland,” said Ivan McKee, Scottish Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, it’s a statement. Scotland is also home to a launch site under development near the town of Sutherland that will host Orbex launches.
In addition to SaxaVord and Sutherland, England’s Spaceport Cornwall, also known as Cornwall Airport Newquay, plans to host launches of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne air-launched system. That spaceport’s first LauncherOne system is scheduled for later this summer, pending regulatory approvals.
“This new partnership between Astra and SaxaVord UK Spaceport is another great example of the international space community’s strong interest in operating from UK spaceports,” Matt Archer, director of commercial space at the UK Space Agency, said in a statement. a statement.