Lift off for Edinburgh rocket manufacturer

A rocket manufacturer has said that it has ‘effectively’ made the UK ready for launching rockets into space, following the successful build of a mobile launch complex in the Scottish Highlands.

Edinburgh-headquartered Skyrora constructed the complex and completed a full static fire test with their Skylark-L rocket in just five days at the Kildemorie Estate. The firm said that it signifies the first vertical static fire test of this magnitude in the UK since the Black Arrow Programme 50 years ago.

The mobile complex was made up of several modules including a command centre, oxidiser, fuel handling containers and compressed gas container.

The Skylark-L is the firm’s first sub-orbital flight vehicle, with it ready to reach a height of approximately 100km, Skyrora said. It uses a propellent combination of hydrogen peroxide and kerosene which are pressure fed into a Skyrora 30kN engine.

Skyrora added that the Skylark-L rocket could be ready to launch from a British spaceport as early as spring 2021 and the inagural launch of the low Earth orbital (LEO) Skyrora XL rocket by 2023.

Dr Jack-James Marlow, of Skyrora, said, “It is very hard to oversell what we have achieved here with this test; the whole team has pulled through again to deliver another UK first. We have successfully static tested a fully integrated, sub-orbital Skylark L launch vehicle in flight configuration. This means we performed all actions of a launch but did not release the vehicle. The rocket engine successfully burned, with all vehicle systems showing nominal operation.

“The test did not only validate the vehicle, it also tested our mobile launch complex’s ground equipment and performed many cold flow and fuel/defuel tests. In all, there were over one hundred unique operations and the team has gained vital experience.”

Skyrora also announced that their Shetland Space Centre (SSC) has been granted £2 million for its development project to create the UK’s unique space launching platform.

The financing, from Leonne Intl, has been secured to assist in the design and proposed space lift-off platform and land base at Saxa Vord, Unst. The capital contribution will provide the finance corporation with a 20% stake in the operation of the facility, which Skyrora said is due to include a space launching site and a land operating centre before the end of 2021.

Michael Haston, executive manager of Leonne Intl, said, “We consistently look forward to working with companies that demonstrate passion, commitment, and leadership and The Shetland Space Centre surpasses these standards through the way they have planned their spacecraft launching campaign.”