Unst in Shetland, the most northerly inhabited island in the UK, has been selected as the ideal spot to construct a commercial satellite launch pad as the nation bids to join the new and rapidly growing global space sector.
Now Shetland Space Centre (SSC) is set to benefit from investment of more than £2 million from private equity firm Leonne International, which will own a 20 per cent stake in the venture.
The cash will be used to develop the Unst facility, including a vertical-launch site for small satellites and a ground operations station.
The first high-altitude commercial payload launches are set to take place later this year, with the spaceport expected to be fully operational by 2021.
A mixture of commercial and government clients will be able to use the space hub, but it is also predicted to attract an increasing number of tourists to the rugged outpost.
Michael Haston, chief executive of Leonne International, headquartered in Hong Kong, said: “We are always excited to partner with firms which exhibit ambition, innovation and excitement, and Shetland Space Centre exceeds this criteria with the plans they have in place for their satellite launch programme.
“With the help of the SSC, Shetland’s space economy is unique and will inevitably become a very valuable asset to the UK.”
Frank Strang, chief executive of SSC, has welcomed the investment and insists Shetland is “absolutely the right location for kick-starting the UK’s entry into this rapidly growing market”.
He added: “We are delighted to have Leonne International as a partner in realising the benefits of space exploration for the UK, and for Shetland’s economy: bringing jobs, revitalising the economy, attracting visitors and establishing Shetland as a northern hub supporting vertical-launch and ground-station activity.
“Mike Haston and his team at Leonne International bring tremendous enthusiasm, drive and belief to the business which will turbo-charge an already dynamic and fast-moving project.”