has contracted California-based ABL Space Systems
— a developer of low-cost launch vehicles and launch systems for the small-satellite industry — to supply a rocket and associated launch services for the company’s first UK ‘vertical’ satellite launch.
The project, known as UK Pathfinder Launch, is planned to be the first ever vertical small-satellite launch from UK soil (from Scotland in 2022). It will also be the first UK commercial launch for ABL Space Systems’ new RS1 rocket.
Nik Smith, Lockheed Martin Space’s regional director, said: “We are absolutely committed to the success of this programme, and the world-class capability that ABL Space Systems brings will allow us to build on our long-standing partnership with the UK and strengthen the growth of the UK space sector.”
Lockheed Martin’s UK Pathfinder Launch supports the UK Space Agency’s commercial spaceflight programme — Launch UK. In October, the UK Space Agency confirmed Lockheed Martin’s plans to move its programme to the Shetland Space Centre, and in January planning proposals were submitted for the space launch facility in Unst.
Ian Annett, the UK Space Agency’s deputy CEO, said: “We want the UK to be the first in Europe to launch small satellites into orbit, attracting innovative businesses from all over the world, accelerating the development of new technologies and creating hundreds of high-skilled jobs throughout the whole of the UK.
“Lockheed Martin’s selection of ABL Space Systems for their UK Pathfinder launch brings us one step closer to realising this ambition.”
The addition of ABL Space Systems as a partner completes Lockheed Martin’s UK Pathfinder Launch programme team. On launch day, ABL Space Systems’ RS1 rocket will lift off from the Shetland Space Centre. Once in orbit, the rocket will release a ‘small launch orbital manoeuvring vehicle’.
Built by MOOG, in Reading, it can carry and deploy up to six 6U CubeSats, ‘optimising orbital placement and timing for each small satellite’s respective missions’.