Leading aerospace coorporation Lockheed Martin has chosen the rocket it will use for the UK's first ever vertical satellite launch, taking place in Shetland.

The project, known as UK Pathfinder Launch, is planned to be the first ever vertical small satellite launch from UK soil, from the island of Unst in Shetland in 2022. 

Lockheed Martin announced it has contracted ABL Space Systems, of El Segundo, California, a developer of low-cost launch vehicles and launch systems for the small satellite industry, to supply the rocket.

READ MORE: Shetland Space Centre mission for German rocket firm HyImpulse Technologies

Nik Smith, Regional Director at Lockheed Martin Space, said: “We are absolutely committed to the success of this programme and the world class capability that ABL Space Systems brings will allow us to build on our long-standing partnership with the UK and strengthen the growth of the UK space sector, aligned to the UK Government’s prosperity and industrial strategy.”

Harry O'Hanley, co-Founder and CEO of ABL Space Systems said they were "proud" to partner with Lockheed Martin on the UK Pathfinder Launch Program.

He said:  "Our team was founded to deliver new launch capabilities, on-demand.

"We're thrilled at the opportunity bring our system to Shetland’s launch site and execute this ground-breaking mission with our partners.”

In October, the UK Space Agency confirmed Lockheed Martin’s plans to move its programme to the Shetland Space Centre and in January, planning proposals were submitted for the space launch facility in Unst.

Officials say the spaceport site could support a total of 605 jobs in Scotland by 2024, including 140 locally and 210 across the wider Shetland region.

READ MORE: Shetland Space Centre: Plans submitted for major launch facility


A further 150 jobs will be created through wider manufacturing and support services, according to the UK Space Agency.

Ian Annett, Deputy CEO, UK Space Agency said: “We want the UK to be the first in Europe to launch small satellites into orbit, attracting innovative businesses from all over the world, accelerating the development of new technologies and creating hundreds of high-skilled jobs across the whole of the UK.

"Lockheed Martin’s selection of ABL Space Systems for their UK Pathfinder launch brings us one step closer to realising this ambition – putting the UK firmly on the map as Europe’s leading small satellite launch destination.

“In this challenging time, it’s more important than ever that we support technologies that will help create jobs and economic growth, enabling people and businesses across the country to benefit from the commercial opportunities offered by the UK’s growing space sector and the many firms throughout its supply chain.”

On launch day, ABL Space Systems’ RS1 rocket will lift off from Shetland Space Centre, in Unst, Shetland, the UK's most northerly island.

Once in orbit, the rocket will release a small launch orbital manoeuvring vehicle, an agile platform built by MOOG, in Reading, which can carry and deploy up to six 6U CubeSats, optimising orbital placement and timing for each small satellite’s respective missions.