• Thunderstorm detector selected for SaxaVord Spaceport

Air Monitoring

Thunderstorm detector selected for SaxaVord Spaceport

Mar 14 2023

Biral has announced that its BTD-300 thunderstorm detector has been chosen by SaxaVord Spaceport to be incorporated into a state-of-the-art all-in-one weather station. The innovative project, developed in partnership with Nevis Technology from Aberdeen, will be installed at the Lamba Ness site in Unst, Shetland, to prepare for the UK's first vertical rocket launch, set to take place later this year.

The advanced meteorological system will feature a range of sensors that will enable the on-site team to assess all aspects of the weather and surrounding atmosphere before each rocket launch, ultimately improving safety. The BTD-300 thunderstorm detector, which can detect all forms of lightning up to a range of 83km, boasts a unique quasi-electrostatic operating principle, providing the Spaceport team with a very low false alarm rate and the ability to offer advance warnings of the risk of overhead lightning.

In addition to detecting cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning, the BTD-300 is much more sensitive to the presence of storms compared to devices that rely solely on radio detection principles. Its ability to detect corona ions allows the sensor to warn of potential fire risks when fuelling the rocket engines, and to warn of the risk of overhead lightning before the first discharge occurs.

With £19m already invested in SaxaVord Spaceport, with an expected increase to £43m over the next 18 months and £100m in the next five years, it is an exciting time for the project to enter its final stages. Nathan Neal, Sales and Marketing Director at Biral, said, "SaxaVord Spaceport required a 'full-service offering' that integrated all weather monitoring systems into one, and we are very proud to be involved in this moment in history. Working with our colleagues at Nevis Technology, we believe the BTD-300 is the perfect piece of equipment to enhance the weather station's capabilities, so we are very much looking forward to seeing it in action later this year."

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