SaxaVord and Plastron UK announce new collaboration to progress first launch

SaxaVord Spaceport is developing a satellite payload processing facility (PPF) with space engineering safety specialists Plastron UK that will give it a commercial edge in the New Space marketplace.

The construction of a unit with two clean rooms and an air lock capable of running at very low cost and with greatly reduced down-time will also help SaxaVord with its strategic goal of significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

SaxaVord is developing a launch site and ground station in Unst, Shetland.  The launch site at Lamba Ness is specifically designed for small rockets delivering payloads of up to 1,000kg into low earth orbit.  

The aim is for the very first launch of an orbital satellite to take place later this year.  This will be the first working facility in the UK for launch vehicles with advanced payloads relying on propellants.

Plastron UK has been commissioned to design, equip and deliver the PPF to enable satellites to be launched into space from Shetland.

Plastron, specialists in space engineering safety, has recently completed the design of Clean Room North, which will provide world class hazardous handling capabilities. They have now been further instructed to complete Clean Room South and the Air Lock.  

This programme will include implementing Plastron’s state-of-the-art HVAC system, which will ensure all cleanrooms are maintained at ISO8, a measure of very low particle concentration, at a fraction of the cost running conventional cleanroom air management systems. 

The system was designed by Plastron with support from the academic research SPRINT programme, applying leading fluid modelling expertise from the University of Southampton, and will be able to clean the SaxaVord cleanrooms down to ISO8 from atmospheric contamination levels in 15 minutes. Not only will this significantly reduce the energy consumption and running costs for SaxaVord, it will optimise launch campaigns by reducing the necessary down-time that occurs when flight hardware is unpacked and handled.

Chris Smith of Plastron said: “Using knowledge gleaned from performing launch operations throughout the world, we have designed the most advanced payload processing facility available for the New Space sector. The facility meets all expected European requirements for safe and efficient working environments for space hardware handling, and can tolerate all the hazardous risks associated with preparing payloads for launch. We are very excited to be working with SaxaVord to push this initiative forward.”

Scott Hammond, deputy CEO of SaxaVord, said: “These cleanrooms will give SaxaVord and the UK an unrivalled capability to host satellites of up to 1,000kg – no other spaceport will have this capability.

“This means we can host a multitude of different satellite sizes and that we are not restricted in our offering to the industry.

“The work on reducing clean down times is also a major part of our strategy to reduce COemissions, showing how we can reduce our carbon footprint by collaborating on innovative solutions with other industry players and academics. We are delighted to be working with Plastron on this project.”