Skyrora opens rocket engine testing facility

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British rocket company Skyrora has opened a new rocket engine testing facility in Midlothian, Scotland, in preparation for orbital launch.

Image credit: Skyrora

The facility is the largest of its kind in the UK and is described by the company as a ‘national first for space sector advancement, and a huge leap toward establishing launch as a final sector in the space ecosystem’.

It will allow Skyrora to concentrate its launch development operations for the purpose of conducting acceptance tests for engines on its orbital Skyrora XL vehicle. The company aims to become the first British company to complete an orbital launch from UK soil.

Part-funded by a 2021 European Space Agency (ESA) grant, the Midlothian facility was commissioned and brought into service within six months after three separate planning applications.

“The new purpose-built Midlothian site allows us to take direct charge of the development cycle in-house,” said Dr Jack James Marlow, Skyrora’s head of engineering.

“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. This milestone was only made possible due to the dedication and talent of the Test Site Team.”

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The site occupies an area of over 120,000 sq ft and will serve a team of up to 20 engineers once running at full capacity. So far, the site has seen 15 engine tests completed with regular weekly tests being conducted.

Skyrora’s 70kN bi-propellant engine, which emits half the carbon emissions of engines using liquid oxygen and kerosene, is currently in verification testing at the new facility. Nine of these engines fuelled by Skyrora’s non-cryogenic propellant, a more stable fuel that doesn’t need constant cooling, will power the 23-metre Skyrora XL rocket on its launch.

Founder and CEO of Skyrora, 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.”