Norfolk-built rocket launches from Outer Hebrides

Gravitis space port first commercial rocket launch

The rocket launched off Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides, on Thursday August 26. - Credit: Jeff Holmes/PA

A rocket developed in Norfolk was launched off a remote Scottish island in an important trial run for future flights from a planned spaceport. 

Gravitilab Aerospace Services launched its rocket, called ADA, several hundred feet into the sky off the island of Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides.

The company is based at Scottow Enterprise Park, near Coltishall, north-east of Norwich.

The flight test vehicle was named after 19th century mathematician Ada Lovelace, considered the world’s first computer programmer. 

ADA’s launch from Benbecula Airport marked a successful trial for Spaceport 1, a consortium led by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), which aims to open at Scolpaig, North Uist, in 2022.


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From this base, commercial sub-orbital space launches will begin to take place from within the UK.

Gravitilab Aerospace Services rocket on Benbecula

The rocket launched off Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides, on Thursday August 26. - Credit: Jeff Holmes/PA

Funding of £25,000 was awarded to Gravitilab from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership's Growth Through Innovation Fund in April this year.

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Rob Adlard, technical director at Gravitilab Aerospace, said: “This launch is a hugely significant moment for Gravitilab.

The rocket launched off Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides, on Thursday August 26.

The rocket launched off Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides, on Thursday August 26. - Credit: Jeff Holmes/PA

“We have launched rockets before, but ADA is a step change for us as it is the rocket that is going to provide a template for a future scaled-up programme that will significantly enhance our space access and microgravity service.

The rocket launched off Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides, on Thursday August 26.

The rocket launched off Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides, on Thursday August 26. - Credit: Jeff Holmes/PA

“Our work is offering microgravity as a research tool and testing service, which has not been offered commercially in the UK before.

Gravitis space port first commercial rocket launch

Gravitis space port first commercial rocket launch - Credit: Jeff Holmes/PA

“Everything from climate change science and driverless cars need assets in space.

“Our aim is to be part of this supply chain for small satellites that will transform the UK’s position in the world in the space sector."

Gravitis space port first commercial rocket launch

The rocket launched off Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides, on Thursday August 26. - Credit: Jeff Holmes/PA

He added: “This successful launch is testament to the hard work of our team, Spaceport 1 and our investors.”

ADA, also dubbed Flight Test Vehicle One (FTV1), has been in preparation for six months and served as a de-risking trial for bigger launches. 

“We’re going to come back again quite soon and fly FTV2,” said Mr Adlard.

It is hoped that FTV2, a larger rocket, will fly to a roughly 20km altitude by the end of November, with the company planning to eventually progress with a later model to a space flight of 110km - some 25km higher than Richard Branson’s recent flight. 

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