THE first satellite to be designed and built solely in Scotland is due to take off into orbit today.

The Glasgow-made device, named UKube-1, will be launched skyward aboard a Russian Soyuz-2 rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin set off on the first manned space flight in 1961.

Said to be one of the most advanced of its kind, the showbox-sized "nanosatellite" will be on a mission to carry out experiments high above the earth, including measuring the weather in space and testing the effects of cosmic radiation on delicate instruments.

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It will also take pictures of the Earth and test low-cost electronic systems which may improve satellite design in the coming years.

Called a "cubesat", the miniature satellite weighs around 4kg and is tightly packed with electrical systems and complex components.

Clyde Space CEO Craig Clark said it was a dream come true to see the spacefaring machine finally on the launchpad, and that he hoped a successful mission could herald an era of Scottish high-tech engineering.

He said: "This is a very proud moment for me and for the team here at Clyde Space. UKube-1 has been years in the making, with a great deal of hard work from our fantastic Clyde Space team, from securing the funding through to bolting the spacecraft to the launch vehicle last week. It has also been a dream for me, to be responsible for producing Scotland's first satellite. I'm very proud of UKube-1. But we're not stopping there.

"This is the first of many, and by that I mean hundreds of satellites of this size to be produced in Glasgow in the coming years."

The mission is the first stage of a collaborative programme to put educational devices into space, test new technologies and carry out new research that has been brought about through a partnership between British industries and academics,

The satellite also carries a payload of five experiments that allow school children to interact with the spacecraft as it soars above the Earth.

Mr Clark added: "UKube-1 is the most advanced nano- satellite to be produced in the UK to date, but we're already at an advanced stage of our next mission which is set to be one of the most advanced cubesats in the world.

"This is a really exciting time in the space industry, more so for Clyde Space as we are one of the main pioneers in the market."

Customers have already lined up to buy the company's next satellite's, and it is hoped that UKube-1 will be the first of many to come off the production line at Clyde Space.

Robin Sampson, spacecraft sales manager, said: "As it is at the moment, most of our sales come from outwith the European Union. We have a healthy spread of sales throughout North America, Asia and Europe and increasingly in South America and Australia.

"We are currently building two other cubesat platforms for other customers, one in Belgium and one in Singapore."

Andrew Strain, vice-president engineering, has recently returned from Baikonur where he supervised the integration of UKube-1 on to the rocket at Launch Site 31.

He said: "UKube-1 shipped out six months ago so our first task was to make sure everything was still healthy. The beauty of the cubesat is that at the launch site we were able to set up the test kit and do all the checkouts within a few hours, confirming we were good to go."