Private equity firm takes 20% stake in Shetland satellite launch site

Plans to build and operate a satellite launch site in Shetland have been given a £2 million boost from private equity firm Leonne International.

Shetland Space Centre (SSC), which has been developing the plans for two and a half years, said the cash injection will give Leonne a 20% stake in the business and will be used for future growth of the company, such as the development of the launch site and ground station in Unst.

The site was identified in an independent report commissioned for the UK Space Agency as the optimal location in the UK for launching small satellites into space, a rapidly growing sector of the international economy.

SSC said it intends to create an international exemplar by developing a green space centre and showcasing that space and its numerous applications are a ”force for good” as well as creating employment and attracting new business opportunities to Shetland in particular.

The company has been developing its plans and collaborating with space industry giants such as Lockheed Martin, Aecom and ArianeGroup and also working closely with legitimate industry newcomers such as Rocket Factory Augsburg and Skyrora, the Edinburgh-domiciled Scottish Launch Provider, Raptor Aerospace, B2Space and C6 as well as Scottish Enterprise, Strathclyde and Edinburgh universities and the Technical University of Munich.

Frank Strang, CEO of Shetland Space Centre, said: “We are delighted to have Leonne International as a partner in realising the benefits of space exploration for the UK, and for Shetland’s economy: bringing jobs, revitalising the economy, attracting visitors and establishing Shetland as a northern hub supporting vertical launch and ground station activity.

“Mike Haston and his team at Leonne International bring tremendous enthusiasm, drive and belief to the business which will turbo charge an already dynamic and fast moving project.

“Just as his grandfather Dougal, a thoughtful visionary and one of Scotland’s legendary rock climbers, pioneered Scottish winter climbing and conquered the world’s biggest and most dangerous mountains, I have no doubt that Mike will lead the way into this next frontier and help us conquer the new space economy for Britain.

“Importantly, the investment enables us to proceed with the first stages of gaining the necessary permissions and licences required to operate the facility and get on with building our launch site and ground station.

“Furthermore, the funding validates what we and, crucially, the wider space industry has been saying for several years now – that Shetland is absolutely the right location for kick-starting the UK’s entry into this rapidly growing market.”

Michael Haston, CEO, Leonne International, added: “We are always excited to partner with firms which exhibit ambition, innovation and excitement, and Shetland Space Centre exceeds this criteria with the plans they have in place for their satellite launch programme.

“With the help of the SSC, Shetland’s space economy is unique and will inevitably become a very valuable asset to the UK.”

Alastair Cooper, chair of Shetland Islands Council’s development committee, said the announcement of private equity funding is positive news.

He added: “The council is committed to supporting local economic opportunities and we hope to maximise the benefit for Unst and Shetland as this project develops. With a wealth of industrial experience in Shetland, there is great potential for the existing business sector to help this pioneering space industry to grow.

“The space sector is a key area for development and diversification in our future economy. Space services will provide opportunities for training and employment and help to increase the active working population in the isles. I particularly welcome the commitment to environmental monitoring, which will gather data to ensure the protection of the natural environment.”

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