The first stage of the company's RS1 missile after welding is complete.
Lockheed Martin announced Monday that it has selected Los Angeles-based missile builder ABL Space to launch a mission from Scotland in two years.
The companies assume that the launch planned for 2022 will be the first from Great Britain and, in a broader sense, the first from European soil. However, Virgin Orbit has also announced plans to launch a mission from an airport in Cornwall, England as early as 2022.
The Lockheed mission is funded by a grant from the UK Space Agency's Pathfinder Launch program, which launches the rocket from Unst Island 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 had previously invested in ABL Space, which is working towards its first launch in California in the first half of 2021. ABL builds small rockets that fit in size between those from Elon Musk's SpaceX and the small rocket Rocket Lab. ABL had raised nearly $ 100 million in venture capital and contract awards prior to the UK grant.
ABL's RS1 rocket is 88 feet tall and is designed to put up to 1,350 kilograms (or nearly 1½ tons) of payload into low-earth orbit for $ 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.
A fully integrated second RS1 stage in the test fire at Edwards Air Force Base in 2020.
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 RS1 rocket that allow us to quickly build our new location," said Randy DeRosa, Program Manager for the Pathfinder Lockheed Martin UK launched a statement.
"The ABL system is relatively simple, quick and inexpensive to implement. It performs fantastic and is an important feature for many of our future customers," added DeRosa.
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