Lockheed Martin, the leading American aerospace company, has reportedly selected the rocket that it would be using to conduct space launches from Unst, the most northerly inhabited island in Shetland, UK.
The vehicle, named the RS1, would be provided by ABL Space Systems based in El Segundo, California. According to reports, if everything goes well, the first flight might occur as early as next year.
The aerospace giant is hoping to augment the business for small satellite launches across the UK, to effectively capitalize on a market that is rapidly expanding across the globe.
In 2018, the UK government gave the aerospace giant nearly £23.5 million to advance its plans to launch rockets in Britain.
Back then, it was expected that pathfinder take-off will take place from a launch facility on the A'Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland located on the Scottish mainland, utilizing a vehicle from Rocket lab, a leading US-New Zealand operator.
However, in 2020, Lockheed Martin shifted its interest to Unst, and has now involved ABL Space Systems, in which it holds a strategic investment as well. Apparently, ABL has not yet launched the RS1, not even in the U.S., and is now hoping to conduct a launch by June.
The 88 feet high (27m) RS1 is basically a two-stage vehicle, burning liquid oxygen and kerosene. The vehicle can put a ton of payload in a 500-kilometer-high Sun-synchronous orbit, the type of polar orbit, mostly used by Earth observation satellites, and which Unst is perfectly positioned to facilitate.
The very first Unst space launch planned for 2022 would also see the RS1 vehicle deploy a sort of space tug made by the Moog firm in Reading. The tug would have the ability to trim orbit’s parameters to favorably suit its satellite passengers.
For Unst location, the planning application regarding the three-pad launch center at the Lamba Ness peninsula is with Shetland Islands Council. Approvals might come around May, which will then allow the building work to begin. In addition, all the launches from the UK would need to be licensed.
Besides Lockheed Martin's association with ABL Space Systems, Shetland has commitments from other rocket operators as well.
Source credit: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-55948914