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RFA UK lands £3.5M for satellite launch from Shetland islands in 2024

RFA UK funding
Picture credits: RFA UK

Scottish Satellite launch company RFA UK (Rocket Factory Ltd.) has landed £3.5 million in funding. The investment was awarded by the UK Space Agency as part of the European Space Agency (ESA), Boost! Programme. It aims to help innovative companies develop new launch technologies and bring them to market. Recently, the UK Space Agency announced up to £65 million of funding for the National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP).

The announcement comes as UK Science Minister, George Freeman, visits SaxaVord Spaceport to see progress at the site and meet key members of the project team.

Launch planned for 2024

RFA UK will use the funds to develop and operate the infrastructure and test equipment needed to enable them to launch from SaxaVord Spaceport in the Shetland Islands in Q2 2024.

RFA UK and SaxaVord Spaceport anticipate around 90 skilled jobs will be created locally when the spaceport reaches full operational capability including spaceport operations and administration, integration, testing and launch.

RFA One launch vehicle

Measuring 30 metres tall and 2 metres wide, the RFA ONE launch vehicle is a three-stage launch vehicle capable of deploying up to 1,300 kg to a 500 km polar orbit. The rocket uses efficient and environmentally friendly Helix staged-combustion engines, stainless steel tanks and standardised components from other industries to offer flexible, low-cost and precise transportation into orbit with its Redshift OTV.

RFA UK is a subsidiary of Rocket Factory Augsburg AG (RFA AG), which will have exclusive access to SaxaVord’s ‘Fredo’ launch pad from where it plans to provide a regular cadence of launch services as one of the spaceport’s anchor customers. RFA UK was set-up to implement and operate launch-specific system and test equipment to support RFA AG’s planned launches from SaxaVord Spaceport.

George Freeman MP, Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said: “Through our £1.5bn UK space funding programmes the Government is backing satcomms technology, space science, missions and infrastructure to support the commercial satellite sector. This £3.5 million investment will enable RFA UK to develop the technologies necessary to launch from SaxaVord Spaceport in Scotland, creating dozens of jobs locally and growing the Scottish cluster as a key part of the UK space sector.”

Matt Archer, Director of Launch, UK Space Agency said: “Our investment in Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA) UK demonstrates our continued commitment to make the UK Europe’s leading destination for launch by encouraging the development of launch companies. This contract will help RFA UK and SaxaVord Spaceport prepare for their first launch, creating high skilled jobs and supporting the Government’s vision for the UK to be Europe’s most attractive launch destination by 2030.”

Jörn Spurmann, Managing Director, RFA UK and Chief Commercial Officer, RFA AG, added: “The support received from the UK Space Agency underscores their strong confidence in our approach. We are eagerly anticipating our inaugural orbital launch in mainland Europe from the SaxaVord Spaceport on British territory. This event will further cement our position as the pioneers in European commercial spaceflight. At the same time, it demonstrates the unwavering confidence the European Space Agency has in our strategy.”

Scott Hammond, SaxaVord Spaceport deputy CEO, said: “We are delighted that the UK Space Agency has awarded this funding to our client to help them progress towards launch from our site in Unst, the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport.”

UK Government Minister for Scotland, John Lamont, said: “The Scottish space sector continues to go from strength to strength with the latest figures showing an almost £40 million increase in income and more than 100 new highly-skilled jobs with support from the UK Government. This new funding will help support launches from SaxaVord Spaceport in Shetland, and maintain UK leadership in this sector.”

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