Canadian Company to Launch from Shetland

On 18 June 2020, the Shetland Space Centre and C6 Launch Systems of Canada announced the signing of a Letter of Intent for the Shetland Space Centre, in Unst, to become the primary launch facility for C6 Launch.

C6Launch Systems is a company whose mission it is to provide launch for small satellites on-demand, without the effects as to launch date and orbit inherent in the “rideshare” model; according to a 2018 report by Frost and Sullivan, any smallsat operator who uses rideshare “compromises on orbit based on the primary payload and has a wait period of about 18–24 months”. Led by president Richard McCammon, C6Launch intend to place payloads of up to 30 kg, in a 16 unit Cubesat configuration, in a nominal 600 km Sun Synchronous Orbit, using proven technology; their plans for the future include other combinations of payloads and orbits.

Richard McCammon is a successful entrepreneur, having founded Delgado Software Incorporated, a company specialising in electronic transactions; he is a member of the Space Committee of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, and holds a Masters of Applied Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.

The two-stage vehicle that C6Launch intend to operate is 13 metres long, and 1 metre in diameter, with three Hadley engines from Ursa Major Technologies in the first stage and one in the second; the engines will use LOX-Kerosene propellant, and will have a sea-level thrust of 20kN. The Hadley is the first American oxidiser-rich staged combustion kerosene-fuelled engine, with integrated electronic and fluidic controls.
Of the agreement, Richard McCammon said: “In SCC, C6 Launch finds a perfect partner. Shetland Space Centre will provide all the infrastructure from launchpad to data communications and tracking that we could ask for. Being at the northernmost location in Scotland gives us the latitude we need to insert nano satellites to the perfect orbit.”

The Shetland Space Centre will provide payload processing and integration/assembly facilities and a number of launch pads, as well as security and operations services.

The Chief Executive Officer of Shetland Space Centre, Frank Strang, said: “We are looking forward greatly to this collaboration with C6 Launch Systems. Richard and his team have been very clear about their needs and hugely supportive of our plans to provide a route to market for small satellites here in Shetland.”

The potential launch services market is estimated to be USD$5.5 billion over the coming decade, and the rideshare option can meet only about a third of this demand.

Summarised by Griffith Ingram

Scotland from Space
Image: Shetland Space Centre

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