NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Shetland Space Centre set for test balloon launch

Unst Image copyright Shetland Space Centre
Image caption Unst is Scotland's most northerly island

The test launch of a balloon for a system that can deliver small satellites into orbit is due to take place in Shetland at the weekend.

Shetland Space Centre has joined forces with B2Space, a Bristol-based firm.

It has developed a stratospheric balloon launch system known as rockoon.

The test launch - weather-permitting, and described as the UK's first commercial spaceflight-related activity - is due to take place at Baltasound Airport in Unst on Sunday.

B2Space co-founder Valentin Canales said: "This is very exciting, both for ourselves and for Shetland Space Centre.

"We will be sending a smaller version of the balloon that we will eventually use up to a height of around 37km (23 miles), carrying a complete set of instruments, trackers and control boards, as well as beaming back live images from an on-board camera.

"The purpose of the test flight is to confirm our ability to operate from Shetland by gathering data, adding to the theoretical study that we have carried out on the last 15 years of weather data."

'Whole new sector'

Shetland Space Centre (SSC) project director Scott Hammond said: "The B2Space balloon launch is the first tangible spaceflight activity in Unst and will mark a truly groundbreaking day for Shetland Space Centre, the islands as a whole, Scotland and the UK.

"It foreshadows the arrival of a whole new sector in the local economy."

Unst is Scotland's most northerly island.

Scotland already has a successful space industry, building satellites and the components for them.

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