The project, known as UK Pathfinder Launch, is planned to be the first ever, vertical, smallsat launch from Scotland in 2022. This will also be the first UK commercial launch for U.S.-based ABL Space Systems’ new RS1 rocket. ABL Space Systems’ flexible, integrated GSO launch system, and RS1 rocket, allows for a rapid and cost-effective deployment with outstanding launch performance.
Lockheed Martin’s UK Pathfinder Launch supports the UK Space Agency’s commercial spaceflight program – 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.
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 Shetland Space Centre, in Unst, Shetland, which is the UK’s most northerly island. Once in orbit, the rocket will release a small launch orbital maneuvering vehicle, an agile platform built by MOOG, in Reading, UK, which can carry and deploy up to six 6U CubeSats, optimising orbital placement and timing for each small satellite’s respective missions.
In 2019, ABL Space Systems announced that it had received a strategic investment from Lockheed Martin Ventures to advance the launch provider’s development and test programme.
Nik Smith, Regional Director, Lockheed Martin Space, 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, aligned to the UK Government’s prosperity and industrial strategy.”
“ABL Space Systems is proud to partner with Lockheed Martin on the UK Pathfinder Launch Program,” said Harry O’Hanley, Co-Founder and CEO of ABL Space Systems. “Our team was founded to deliver new launch capabilities, on-demand. We’re thrilled at the opportunity bring our system to Shetland’s launch site and execute this ground-breaking mission with our partners.”
Ian Annett, Deputy CEO, UK Space Agency 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 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.”