Credit: RFA

Grantown-on-Spey, Scotland – October 27, 2023. Launch service provider RFA UK (Rocket Factory Ltd) has received £3.5 million to support its plans to launch from SaxaVord Spaceport in the Shetland Islands. The announcement comes as UK Science Minister, George Freeman, visits SaxaVord Spaceport to see progress at the site and meet key members of RFA UK.

The funding was awarded by the UK Space Agency as part of the European Space Agency (ESA), Boost! Programme, which aims to help innovative companies develop new launch technologies and bring them to market. With the UK contributing as the third nation to the RFA ONE development via C-STS Boost!, RFA AG is the most endorsed commercial launch service development within the C-STS Boost! Programme.

RFA UK will use the funding to develop and operate the infrastructure and test equipment needed to enable them to launch the RFA ONE launch system from SaxaVord Spaceport, planned for Q2 2024. RFA UK and SaxaVord Spaceport anticipate around 90 skilled jobs will be created locally when the spaceport arrives to full operational capability including spaceport operations and administration, integration, testing and launch.

A subsidiary of Rocket Factory Augsburg AG (RFA AG), the UK company is headquartered in Grantown-on-Spey, Scotland. RFA AG will have exclusive access to the 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.

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.

Jörn Spurmann, Managing Director, RFA UK and Chief Commercial Officer, RFA AG: “The support received from the UK Space Agency underscores their strong confidence in our approach. We are eagerly anticipating our inaugural orbital launch from the SaxaVord Spaceport in the UK. 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. With the UK contributing as the third nation to the RFA ONE development via C-STS Boost!, we solidify our role as a genuine European launch service provider and the most endorsed commercial launch service development within the C-STS Boost! Programme. We are absolutely delighted to reciprocate this faith and support.”

George Freeman MP, Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said: “The UK’s high growth £17bn space industry is on the frontline of advanced satellite manufacturing and satcomms technology and services, and set to grow fast as the commercial Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellite sector expands in the next decade. Through our c£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 to 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 Government’s vision for the UK to be Europe’s most attractive launch destination by 2030.”

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.”

About Rocket Factory

Rocket Factory Augsburg was founded in 2018 with the vision to enable data generating business models in space to better monitor, protect and connect our planet Earth. Against this background, the company’s goal is to offer launch services of up to 1.300kg into low Earth orbits and beyond on a weekly basis at highly competitive prices. With this, RFA wants to democratize access to space and reduce the launch costs in the space industry. The RFA ONE launch service combines three key competitive advantages: A customer focused service with precise in-orbit delivery and a high degree of mission flexibility through its Redshift OTV; at a highly competitive price; made possible by superior staged combustion technology, low-cost stainless-steel structures and usage of industrial components.

Source: Rocket factory Ausburg

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Kris Christiaens

This article was published by FutureSpaceFlight founder and chief editor Kris Christiaens. Kris Christiaens has been passionate and fascinated by spaceflight and space exploration all his life and has written hundreds of articles on space projects, the commercial space industry and space missions over the past 20 years for magazines, books and websites. In late 2021, he founded the website FutureSpaceFlight with the goal of promoting new space companies and commercial space projects and compiling news of these start-ups and companies on one website.