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Lockheed Martin has selected ABL Space Systems, of El Segundo, CA, to supply a rocket and associated launch services for the first ever vertical satellite launch from British soil, scheduled for 2022, the company announced on 8 February.

The launch, as part of the UK Space Agency’s ‘Launch UK’ commercial spaceflight programme from the Shetland Space Centre, will mark the first UK commercial launch for ABL’s new RS1 rocket. The company’s flexible, integrated GSO launch system, coupled with the RS1, allows for rapid, cost-effective deployment. Lockheed Martin’s UK Pathfinder launch programme confirmed plans to move to the Shetland Space Centre late last year.

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, aligned to the UK government’s prosperity and industrial strategy,” commented Nik Smith, Regional Director for Lockheed Martin Space.

Ian Annett, Deputy CEO, UK Space Agency, added “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 across 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 – putting the UK firmly on the map as Europe’s leading small satellite launch destination […] In this challenging time, it’s more important than ever that we support technologies that will help create jobs and economic growth, enabling people and businesses across the country to benefit from the commercial opportunities offered by the UK’s growing space sector and the many firms throughout its supply chain.”

Once in orbit, the RS1 will release a small launch orbital manoeuvring vehicle, an agile platform built by MOOG, which can carry and deploy up to six 6U CubeSats, optimising orbital placement and timing for each small satellite’s respective mission. To demonstrate the full value of this new UK space launch capability, two of the CubeSats deployed will be Lockheed Martin’s own technology demonstration spacecraft.

The 2022 launch of an RS1 rocket from Shetland will be the UK’s first ever vertical satellite launch. (Image via Lockheed Martin)

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