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Rocket startup ABL Space launching from Scotland for Lockheed Martin

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The first stage of the company’s RS1 missile after welding is complete.

ABL Space

Lockheed Martin selected Los Angeles-based rocket builder ABL Space to launch a mission from Scotland in two years, the defense contractor said on Monday.

The companies said the launch, scheduled for 2022, would be the first satellite launch from the UK and, more broadly, the first from European soil. The mission is funded by a grant from the UK Space Agency’s Pathfinder Launch program, which will launch the rocket from the Scottish island of Unst in the Shetland Islands.

“We want the UK to be the first country in Europe to put small satellites into orbit, attract innovative companies from around the world, accelerate the development of new technologies and create hundreds of high-quality jobs across the UK.” The agency’s deputy CEO Ian Annett said in a statement.

Lockheed Martin’s venture capital arm is ABL Space, which is working towards its first launch in California in the first half of this year. ABL builds small rockets that fit between Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Rocket Lab for small launch vehicles on the market. The company raised nearly $ 100 million in venture capital and contract awards prior to the UK grant.

ABL’s RS1 rocket is 88 feet tall and can put up to 1,350 kilograms (or nearly 1½ tons) of payload into near-earth orbit – at a cost of $ 12 million per launch. ABL’s position in the midst of the commercial launches market puts it in competition with other companies such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, Relativity Space and Firefly Aerospace. In particular, Virgin Orbit has also announced plans to launch a mission from an airport in Cornwall, England as early as 2022.

A fully integrated second RS1 stage in the test fire at Edwards Air Force Base in 2020.

ABL Space

The RS1 launch from Scotland will carry a spaceship built by MOOG of the UK that will deploy six small satellites, two of which will be technology demonstrations built by Lockheed Martin.

“We selected ABL Space Systems for the UK Pathfinder Launch to take advantage of the flexibility of ABL’s integrated GSO launch system and the RS1 rocket that allow us to quickly build our new location,” said Randy DeRosa, UK Pathfinder Launch- Lockheed Martin program manager said in a statement. “The ABL system is relatively easy, quick and inexpensive to implement, and with fantastic performance it provides an important feature for many of our future customers.”

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Robert Dunfee