Skyrora opens rocket-building facility in Scotland
Image credit: Skyrora
The UK’s largest rocket-building facility has been opened by British firm Skyrora in Cumbernauld, Scotland.
The production of two Skyrora vehicles has already commenced at the site, which will increase up to 16 per year once mass production begins.
The firm said its new site boasts “unique capabilities” for space infrastructure in the UK, as certain tests that would typically be outsourced to facilities in other countries can now be conducted domestically. It is capable of conducting full-stage structural and pressure testing and full-stage functional and cold flow testing at the new facility.
Conducting these tests domestically saves time and costs, and will allow the maiden testing of the second stage of the Skyrora XL rocket to be performed from UK soil. This includes the assembly of the 70kN engine, which has been built using 3D-printed engine components.
The hot fire testing will see the second stage attached to a stand at the newly opened Midlothian test facility as the engine simulates a real launch. This enables telemetry data to be collected and analysed on-site.
As a three-stage launch vehicle, the second stage of Skyrora XL will start its engines at approximately 62km before releasing the third stage at around 190km for orbital launch.
Skyrora’s head of engineering, Dr Jack James Marlow, said: “This purpose-built manufacturing and assembly site, combined with the Midlothian testing facility, allows Skyrora to take direct charge of the development cycle in-house.
“As a business, we now have a full set of domestic facilities to allow for close control of the quality and rapid development and testing of Skyrora XL ahead of its demo launch. The site will also allow us to further optimise manufacturing processes developed by our colleagues in Ukraine and scale-up launch vehicle production in the long term, enabling further expansion and growth in the future.”
Skyrora’s readiness to enter mass production comes as the UK ramps up its space ambitions. The firm said it wants to become the first British company to launch a rocket from UK soil with its orbital vehicle, Skyrora XL.
By 2030, Skyrora aims to conduct 16 launches per year from Saxavord launch complex in the Shetland Islands.
Skyrora CEO Volodymyr Levykin said: “To play a significant role in the emerging global space economy, the UK has to develop sovereign launch capabilities. This isn’t just about offering different locations for launch, but everything that precedes that moment.
“Being able to offer end-to-end domestic capabilities from development, manufacturing, testing, and launch provides the UK with a crucial advantage as it looks to unlock its capabilities and deliver on its potential on the global stage."
Ian Annett, deputy CEO, UK Space Agency, said: “As we approach the UK’s first commercial space launch this summer, Skyrora’s new manufacturing and production facility in Cumbernauld will further enhance the UK’s reputation as Europe’s most attractive destination for launch activities.
“Scotland is home to around one-fifth of all space jobs in the UK and, by harnessing the opportunities provided by commercial spaceflight, we are creating highly skilled jobs and local opportunities in Scotland and across the country.”
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.