The first vertical launch in the United Kingdom by Lockheed Martin and ABL is scheduled for 2023

The first vertical launch in the United Kingdom by Lockheed Martin and ABL is scheduled for 2023

In 2021, ABL Space Systems of El Segundo, California, a manufacturer of low-cost launch vehicles as well as launch technologies for the small satellite market, was contracted by Lockheed Martin to deliver a rocket and launch capabilities for the company’s first UK vertical satellite deployment.

Despite the fact that Lockheed Martin’s UK Pathfinder project is no longer slated to fly in 2022, it is still a contender for the title of first vertical deployment to orbit from British soil. Lockheed Martin and its deployment ally ABL Space Systems appear to be falling behind in the competition to undertake the United Kingdom’s first vertical orbital launch, with Orbex aiming for a maiden flight this year or in the year 2023.

Nik Smith, Lockheed Martin’s regional director in charge of the space for the United Kingdom (UK) and Europe, informed SpaceNews via email that there are several program dependencies that they regularly manage. He mentioned “launch vehicle and spaceport maturation” as well as “license application approvals.” In 2018, Lockheed Martin received government money from the United Kingdom to assist in the development of a domestic launch capability.

Later, the corporation chose ABL to deploy in 2022 from the SaxaVord Spaceport facility¬†in Scotland’s Shetland Islands, which is located in the far north of the country. On May 24, SaxaVord stated that the Scottish Government had approved its final planning applications, allowing construction to begin in time for orbital launches in 2022.

The spaceport is preparing for a site-wide drill in early July, with the goal of testing facilities by deploying a small rocket to an elevation of 3.6 kilometers, which is significantly below commercial airplane cruising altitude. The rocket will be lifted from the Lamba Ness peninsula facility, where a permanent launch pad is being built, using a portable launch pad.

However, following a test mishap in January, ABL’s RS1 rocket, which would be used for mission of the UK Pathfinder, has been delayed. ABL had planned to launch the RS1 for the first time from Kodiak Island based in Alaska in early 2022 but now hopes to do so in the early summer.

In the 4th quarter of 2022, ABL is planning to deploy 2 prototype satellites for Amazon’s Project Kuiper broadband megaconstellation. ABL intends to manufacture the¬†launch system and rocket in California before sending it to Scotland for the United Kingdom Pathfinder mission, according to Piemont.

Astra also intends to commercialize SaxaVord in 2023, subject to final agreements as well as regulatory clearances, according to a statement released on May 10. SaxaVord said on May 24 that the Scottish government had approved its final planning applications, allowing the company to complete construction in time for orbital launches by the end of 2022.

The spaceport is preparing for a site-wide rehearsal that will be conducted in early July, with the goal of testing facilities by launching a miniature rocket to a height of 3.6 kilometers, which is significantly below commercial airplane cruising altitudes.

The rocket will be launched from the Lamba Ness peninsula facility, where a permanent launchpad is still being built, using portable launchpad technology. Despite the rocket’s diminutive size, the SaxaVord operating team hopes to model, practice, and analyze all of the operations involved in launching a much larger rocket. For aviation and maritime safety, these comprise vehicle tracking and clearance processes.

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