Testing facility for lower carbon rocket engines opens in Scotland
Image credit: skyrora
UK rocket company Skyrora has opened a new rocket engine testing facility in Midlothian, Scotland.
The state-of-the-art facility, which is the largest of its kind in the UK, represents another step forward for the UK’s burgeoning space sector.
The government currently hopes to grow the UK’s share of the global space market to 10 per cent by 2030. It aims to build multiple spaceports in the UK, with a view to seeing commercial sub-orbital spaceflight and space tourism from UK spaceports.
In October, Skyrora signed a deal with a spaceport based on the Shetland islands that could see rocket launches take place in the UK this year at the earliest.
It said its new Midlothian facility would have a lower carbon footprint compared to having to transport engines and equipment to third-party facilities. It will also harness its natural surroundings and use rainfall from the Scottish Lowlands as part of the cooling systems of the test stand.
The firm plans to use the site to concentrate its launch development operations for the purpose of conducting acceptance tests for engines on its orbital Skyrora XL vehicle, as it aims to become the first British company to complete an orbital launch from UK soil.
After three separate planning applications, the Midlothian facility was commissioned and brought into service within six months. The site was also awarded a grant last year by the European Space Agency (ESA) as part of its mission to foster new commercial space transportation services.
The Midlothian site occupies an area of over 120,000 sq ft (1.1ha) and will serve a team of up to 20 engineers once the testing site is running at full capacity. So far, the site has already seen 15 engine tests completed, with regular weekly tests being conducted.
The firm’s 70kN bi-propellant engine, which emits half the carbon emissions of engines using liquid oxygen and kerosene, is currently deep into verification testing at the new facility.
Skyrora’s head of engineering, Dr Jack James Marlow, said: “The new purpose-built Midlothian site allows us to take direct charge of the development cycle in-house. By reducing our reliance on third parties and cultivating specialist knowledge within the company, the Midlothian location gives us much closer control of the quality and rapid development of Skyrora XL as we prepare for its first demo launch.
“The site also allows us to optimise our manufacturing processes, and to scale up launch vehicle production over the long term.”
Skyrora CEO Volodymyr Levykin said: “Developing sovereign launch capability is of the utmost importance for the UK’s ability to claim a leadership position in the emerging new global space economy - something that has only become more clear as we’ve seen the role played by space services in intelligence-gathering and security and defence during the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.”
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.