TAMPA, Fla. — The UK Space Agency is providing £3.5 million ($4.3 million) to help Germany’s Rocket Factory Augsburg prepare for its maiden flight next year from SaxaVord Spaceport, located in Scotland’s Shetland Islands.
The funding was awarded via the European Space Agency’s Boost! program to RFA UK, the small rocket developer’s Scottish launch services subsidiary that is developing infrastructure and test equipment needed to support the mission.
RFA currently expects to launch its three-stage, 30-meter-tall RFA One rocket at some point during the three months to the end of June, recently delayed from the end of this year.
Announcing the funding award Oct. 26, UK Space Agency director of launch Matt Archer said the investment highlights the country’s continued commitment to become a major launch hub for Europe.
The UK Space Agency has also awarded funds to U.S.-based Lockheed Martin to establish launch operations from SaxaVord Spaceport.
Californian rocket startup ABL Space Systems is slated to perform the U.K. launch for Lockheed in a mission that has also suffered delays.
ABL had planned to conduct its SaxaVord Spaceport launch in 2023, but has yet to announce a date for its next launch attempt anywhere after its inaugural mission from Alaska failed to reach orbit Jan. 10.
European rocket developers including Skyrora and Orbex are also looking to launch from other U.K. spaceports still in development.
Although SaxaVord Spaceport has already constructed most of the facilities needed to support launches, including a launchpad that will be used exclusively by RFA, the company still needs U.K. Civil Aviation Authority approval to conduct orbital missions.
Spaceport Cornwall in southwestern England remains the only site in the U.K. to obtain a launch license, used for Virgin Orbit’s failed attempt to launch satellites via its horizontal air-launch system in January.
RFA’s funding announcement comes two months after receiving €30 million ($32 million) from global investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., or KKR.
The RFA ONE is designed to lift 450 kilograms to geostationary transfer orbit, and the company has said its first flight would carry a research mission for Ukraine-based Lunar Research Service.