SaxaVord Spaceport – based on the Shetland Islands – is collaborating with space engineering safety specialists Plastron UK to develop an advanced satellite payload processing facility (PPF).
SaxaVord progresses to vertical launches with satellite payload processing facility
They are constructing two cleanrooms and an air lock, enabling SaxaVord to host satellites of up to 1,000kg. A capability unique to SaxaVord in the UK, the spaceport highlights.
The launch site and ground station is being constructed on the Lamba Ness peninsula in Unst, Shetland. It is specifically designed for small rockets delivering payloads of up to 1,000Kg into LEO (low Earth orbit).
The Bavarian-based Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA) has already chosen it to be the location for its first launch. The two organisations have announced a multi-year launch operations partnership, which means RFA will have exclusive access for orbital launches.
SaxaVord says the aim is for the first launch of an orbital satellite later this year. It will be the first working facility in the UK for launch vehicles with advanced payloads relying on propellants including hydrazine and LMP 103S.
The design of the interior clean room design is envisaged above, along with an external view, right.
“Using knowledge gleaned from performing launch operations throughout the world, we have designed the most advanced payload processing facility available for the New Space sector,” said Plastron’s Technical Director, Chris Smith.
“The facility meets all expected European requirements for safe and efficient working environments for space hardware handling, and can tolerate all the hazardous risks associated with preparing payloads for launch.”
The PPF to be installed was designed by Plastron with support from the academic research SPRINT programme, applying fluid modelling expertise from the University of Southampton.
It will be able to clean the SaxaVord cleanrooms down to ISO8 from atmospheric contamination levels in 15 minutes. Not only will this significantly reduce the energy consumption and running costs for SaxaVord, says the spaceport, it will help optimise launch campaigns by reducing necessary down-time when flight hardware is unpacked and handled.
The development represents progress towards the first UK vertical rocket launch. The launch from Spaceport Cornwall in January was a horizontal launch from a modified Boeing.