Rocket launch a milestone in unlocking Kintyre’s spaceflight potential

A Raptor Aerospace Kestrel-100LD rocket was successfully launched last week.
A Raptor Aerospace Kestrel-100LD rocket was successfully launched last week.

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The first rocket launch at Machrihanish airbase took place last week, marking a giant leap in the development of spaceflight from Kintyre.

Machrihanish Airbase Community Company (MACC), which owns the former RAF airbase, signed a memorandum of understanding with London-based UK Launch Services Ltd (UKLSL), setting out the intention to create a joint venture for establishing spaceflight related services at the site. This will include small rocketry, research and development and training.

This milestone was commemorated by the successful launch of a Raptor Aerospace Kestrel-100LD rocket from the site last Wednesday afternoon.

The new company’s first undertaking will be holding a unique student competition ‘of the scale not before seen in the UK’.

The Mach-21 competition will see up to 150 university students build and launch their own CanSats, simulation satellites the same size as a soft drinks can. The challenge for the students is to fit all the major subsystems found in a satellite, such as power, sensors and a communication system, into this minimal volume.

Pairs of CanSat entries which meet the criteria will be launched by rockets supplied by Raptor Aerospace at an altitude of around 600m before deploying a parachute and hopefully returning safely to the ground whilst taking measurements and performing novel tasks.

Students will be free to come up with unique designs and applications to be tested and judged by a panel of experts at Machrihanish’s new home of spaceflight innovation. The winning team will take home the prized Mach-21 trophy.

The inaugural event will be held in July 2021 with an opportunity for members of the public to view a rocket launch during a special open hour.

MACC chairman Cameron McNair told the Courier: ‘MACC sees the launch as the first step in our journey in the field of aerospace and rocketry. We believe the MACC site offers unique opportunities for companies active in aerospace as well as in academia and research and development. We are looking forward to moving forward with our collaborators and stakeholders with the CanSat competition next year.’

Victoria Montag, UKLSL general manager, added: ‘We work with leading spaceflight organisations and potential spaceport sites worldwide and immediately recognised the potential Machrihanish airbase has to offer to the spaceflight industry. This joint venture signifies an important milestone to unlocking that potential.

‘Next year’s CanSat competition will demonstrate this further by drawing in participants and industry representatives from across the UK and giving the local community the opportunity to experience some of our activities first-hand.’

MACC will be holding its annual general meeting at the Officers Mess at 7.30pm on Tuesday September 22. As a result of Covid-19 restrictions, spaces are restricted so anyone wishing to attend should phone the office on 01586 551555 beforehand.

Announcements of the successful applicants to the second round of funding from MACC’s Charitable Giving Fund will be made at the meeting.