top of page
  • Satellite Evolution

Countdown to launch: Lockheed Martin shares latest progress on UK Pathfinder Project

Lockheed Martin UK has been all systems go since Shetland Islands Council approved SaxaVord’s application to build the spaceport that will allow the company to deliver the UK’s first ever vertical space launch.

Work has started in Shetland with the land currently being excavated as the team starts to prepare the land for where the launch pads and integration buildings will reside.

Alongside activity in Shetland, partner ABL Space Systems is preparing for their first test launch out of Alaska. The maiden voyage of the RS1 rocket, scheduled for August, will mark an important milestone for ABL in demonstrating its capability. An ABL RS1 rocket will be shipped to Shetland for the UK Pathfinder Launch.

Another critical element of the UK Pathfinder Launch is the development of the Orbital Manoeuvring Vehicle (OMV) by Moog, a free-flying vehicle that will be used to deploy up to six 6u CubeSats into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). With production taking place in Reading, Moog has been able to utilise leading UK suppliers for key components and subsystems, enabling growth of their space capabilities within the UK.

The Moog SL-OMV is currently in production, with Moog conducting a series of tests on sub-systems including the flight harness, software and propulsion. The team will also look to conduct sub-system checks to verify manufacturing and then start integrating those systems into the main body of the spacecraft, including the propulsion system.

Following this, environmental testing will begin, where the conditions endured during launch and in space will be replicated to verify the integrity of the spacecraft by conducting vibration, thermal vacuum and electromagnetic compatibility testing.

After environmental testing, radio frequency compatibility and end-to-end testing (from ground to space) will be undertaken at the Lockheed Martin Systems Integration Laboratory (SIL) in Harwell after which the OMV will be transported to SaxaVord’s base in Shetland.

Nik Smith, UK and Europe regional director for Lockheed Martin, said: “We are proud to be working with our partners to reach these key milestones. We are making great progress towards the UK’s first vertical, orbital satellite launch.

“This is an exciting time for the team as we see all the different elements coming together, and we’re delighted to be supporting the UK Space Agency to achieve their goal of creating a world-leading commercial launch market and stimulating the UK space supply chain.”

Matt Smith, Moog Reading General Manager, commented: “We are excited to be a key part of the UK Pathfinder launch. The production of Moog’s SL-OMV is a great example of collaboration between the UK Space Agency and UK engineering expertise. The Moog Reading facilities that were built especially for the SL-OMV will allow for future growth in space technology and jobs in the UK.”

Matthew Archer, Director of Commercial Spaceflight for the UK Space Agency, said: “The Countdown to launch is on, and it’s great to see the work taking place at SaxaVord spaceport and the progress being made by Lockheed Martin and its partners.”

The development of the SaxaVord spaceport is a key step forward in helping the UK to unlock growth in the space sector while also demonstrating alignment to the country’s growth, security, and prosperity plans, including investment in local skills and economies. The SaxaVord launch facility is set to create circa 140 jobs in Unst and inject at least £4.9m into the Shetland Island economy each year. It will also provide a further 70 jobs throughout Shetland, adding a further £2.9m in gross value to the economy.


bottom of page