A while ago, space exploration company Lockheed Martin announced its intentions to be the first company to use the newly proposed launchpad in Scotland. The latest news shows that the company decided to shift its operations to an additional spaceport in Scotland. This announcement comes two years after it released the initial information.
According to a report by the U.K. Space Agency on the 22nd of October, Lockheed was due for a location change from the previously proposed Space Hub in Sutherland to the Shetland Space Centre situated in Northern Scotland. These plans are a shift in Lockheed’s Pathfinder deployment mission. The U.K. Space Agency confirms that the shift aligns with the agency’s planning to provide long-term value in space missions. The shift also counts the move as a precursor towards establishing the U.K. space industry under sustainable plans.
The initial plan to launch on the Sutherland was a proposal fully backed by the U.K. Space Agency. According to the agency’s plan, Lockheed and another company Orbex were the first scheduled customers to deploy off the Sutherland launch pad. Both companies received massive donations from the Space Agency with record reporting that Orbex received $7million while Lockheed received $31 million. A majority of the donation made to Lockheed was to build a Small launch Orbital Manoeuvring Vehicle sanctioned for the later stages.
Despite interest in the matter, the announcement did not seek to explain the shift. According to U.K.’s Lockheed Martin spokesperson Liz Crawshaw, The shift is a decision following continuous differences between the two companies set to use the launch station.
Both companies use different regulatory systems and have different requirements for their launch pads, prompting a separation. Crawshaw further explains that at this point, discussions came underway to decide which company would shift to the new proposed location.
Orbex Launch requirements include setting up its small launch vehicle to deploy into space in orbit, 500 kilometers from the sun. To do this, the company needs additional manufacturing systems to develop its fuel-efficient mixture of bio propane and liquid oxygen. The new fuel aims to reduce the company’s carbon footprint compared to kerosene while providing more energy output.
Lockheed’s last meeting showed that the company does not have a proprietary small launch vehicle ready for launch. However, the company has extensive investments in two start-up companies, Rocket Lab and ABL Space Systems, focusing on developing small launch vehicles.