Satellite launch company RFA UK (Rocket Factory Ltd) has received £3.5 million in funding from the UK Space Agency. The funding is part of the European Space Agency’s Boost! Programme, which aims to support innovative companies in developing new launch technologies.
The funding will be used by RFA UK to develop and operate the necessary infrastructure and test equipment required for launching from SaxaVord Spaceport in the Shetland Islands. The company plans to begin launching in the second quarter of 2024. It is anticipated that the spaceport will create around 90 skilled jobs locally.
RFA UK is a subsidiary of Rocket Factory Augsburg AG (RFA AG) and is headquartered in Grantown-on-Spey, Scotland. As an anchor customer of SaxaVord Spaceport, RFA AG will have exclusive access to the spaceport’s ‘Fredo’ launch pad, where it plans to offer regular launch services.
The RFA ONE launch vehicle, measuring 30 meters tall and 2 meters wide, is a three-stage rocket capable of deploying up to 1,300 kg to a 500 km polar orbit. It utilizes efficient and environmentally friendly Helix staged-combustion engines, stainless steel tanks, and standardized components to provide flexible, low-cost, and precise transportation to orbit.
The UK government sees the space industry as a high growth sector, with a £17 billion valuation. They are backing satellite communications technology, space science, missions, and infrastructure with approximately £1.5 billion in funding programs to support the commercial satellite sector.
The investment in RFA UK demonstrates the UK Space Agency’s commitment to making the UK Europe’s leading destination for launch. The funding will help RFA UK and SaxaVord Spaceport prepare for their first launch, creating high-skilled jobs and supporting the government’s vision for the UK to become Europe’s most attractive launch destination by 2030.
RFA UK was established to implement and operate launch-specific systems and test equipment for RFA AG’s planned launches from SaxaVord Spaceport. The support received from the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency demonstrates strong confidence in RFA UK’s approach to commercial spaceflight.
Other funding from the UK Space Agency includes £23.4 million for Lockheed Martin to establish launch operations from SaxaVord Spaceport and to build a small launch vehicle in Reading.
The funding from the UK Space Agency will contribute to the growth of the Scottish space sector, supporting launches from SaxaVord Spaceport and maintaining UK leadership in the industry.