Commercial rocket launch closer after key test
Britain’s first vertical rocket launch has moved a step closer after Skyrora successfully completed a key test of its flagship orbital vehicle.
The stage test on Skyrora XL at Machrihanish Airbase on the Mull of Kintyre, was the largest in the UK since Black Arrow and Blue Streak 50 years ago which were cancelled without going into production.
The test at Discover Space UK was made possible after Skyrora received funding from the European Space Agency’s Commercial Space Transportation Programme as well as support from the UK Space Agency,
Skyrora is now close to commercial operation, with an inaugural orbital launch scheduled for 2023 from the SaxaVord Space Centre on Unst, the most northerly of the Shetland Islands.
Volodymyr Levykin, founder and CEO of Skyrora, said: “With the UK striving to capture a 10% share of the global space market by 2030, the successful Skyrora XL second stage static fire test puts Skyrora on track to become a key part of the UK’s new space industry as the first British company to conduct vertical launch from UK soil.
“Skyrora now has purpose-built rocket manufacturing and testing facilities in the UK – as well as the largest 3D printer of its kind, which we are using to produce rocket engine components.
“We recognise the value that a strong domestic space industry will bring to the UK, and we will continue to spearhead these efforts to make the UK a player to be reckoned with globally.”
The successful test is the latest important stride for Skyrora, following the opening last month of a manufacturing and production facility, the largest of its kind in the UK, in Cumbernauld and the recent opening of an engine test facility in Midlothian.
The new facility in Cumbernauld allows the company to concentrate its launch development practices in custom-built domestic facilities, further strengthening Skyrora’s status as the leader in the UK space race.
Colonel Lee Rosen (USAF, Retd.), Skyrora COO and former SpaceX vice-president, said: “The static fire test looks, sounds and feels a lot like a rocket launch, but without lifting off.
“This hugely successful test was a definitive demonstration of our mobility and flexibility. The Skyrora team went from clean tarmac to a full static fire test in just 2.5 days, bringing all the necessary equipment with them.”
Machrihanish Airbase is a former military base which hosted a US Air Force detachment of strategic bombers during WW2 and was used by RAF and NATO air forces until 1997. The airstrip at Machrihanish was also a designated emergency landing site during NASA’s space shuttle era.