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WATCH: Space race intensfies as rocket blasts off in first test flight on Shetland

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A test flight by the first rocket to blast off from Shetland has been hailed as a “great success” by the Scottish space firm behind the launch.

Skyrora’s Skylark Nano vehicle soared to around 20,000 feet from a remote site at North Roe, at the northernmost tip of the islands’ mainland, at the weekend.

The Edinburgh firm is aiming to win a share of the lucrative small satellite launch market and hopes to start sending them into orbit from one of three proposed spaceports in the Highlands and Islands by 2023.

Skyrora said the test from the Fethaland Peninsula was “very important” as Shetland is a “potential option” for launches of its XL commercial rocket. There are also plans to develop spaceports on the A’Mhoine peninsula, in Sutherland, and on North Uist, in the Outer Hebrides.

Saturday’s flight of the 6.5ft rocket was used to collect meteorological data, measure wind profiles and analyse its trajectory and to train staff.

It was the third launch of the Skylark Nano rocket, with the previous two having taken place from the Kildermorie Estate, near Alness in Easter Ross, in 2018 and last year. A month ago, Skyrora carried out a complete test of its Skylark L vehicle at the same location, without it blasting off.

Robin Hague, head of haunch at Skyrora said the Shetland launch was a “vital step” towards the firm’s ambition to become the UK’s “go-to” satellite launch provider.”

He continued: “This is a great success for Skylark Nano and the Skyrora team in general. Launching from Shetland is very important for us because it’s a potential option for our Skyrora XL orbital commercial launch vehicle. To understand the local launch conditions, learning more about the wind profiles in Shetland is critical.

“Skylark Nano’s third successive launch is testament to the engineers who have worked tirelessly to bring to life a reusable rocket that can provide valuable intelligence for the future of the UK space programme.”

Skyrora, which employs around 20 people in Edinburgh and 100 in research and development in Dnipro, in the Ukraine, aims to create 170 jobs in Scotland through further expansion between now and the end of 2023.

The company’s chief executive, Volodymyr Levykin, said: “With this successful launch from Shetland we are further closing the gap to making the UK a rocket launching nation again.

“For Skyrora this test was all about learning and training. The innovation at Skyrora is enormous, not only are we producing high quality results, but we are doing so with minimum impact to the environment as we strive to develop eco-friendly technology in our launches.

“At a time of such uncertainty it is important we keep focusing on ingenuity and enterprise. We hope reaching space will inspire the whole nation and show the younger generation what the future of UK space holds”.

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