As part of its £23.5 million (US$31 million) launch enabling project for the UK Government, US aerospace firm Lockheed Martin has awarded a contract to US small launch vehicle manufacturer ABL Space Systems to provide a demonstration orbital “UK Pathfinder launch” using its RS1 rocket. The launch is expected to take place during 2022 from one of the three pads at the vertical launch site at the Shetland Space Centre, which is being built in Unst in the Shetland Islands, Scotland.
The rocket will fly on a northerly trajectory and should be able to carry around 1000 kg to a near-polar 500 km Sun-synchronous low Earth orbit. Compared with the Sutherland space port in northern Scotland, which was originally considered for the launch site, Unst is less hampered by oil rigs and related activity in the way of its trajectory, causing launch date limitations.
The 27m-long RS1 rocket is a two-stage design employing a traditional pair of liquid propellants: kerosene as the fuel and Liquid Oxygen (LOx) as the oxidiser. The rocket will carry a manoeuvrable delivery spacecraft called the Moog SL-OMV (Small Launcher-Orbital Manoeuvring Vehicle). This is designed to carry up to six 6U cubesat-class satellites to different orbits. One of these rides is reported by the BBC as having been booked by Orbital Micro Systems for one of its weather satellites.