A SCOTTISH space company has chosen the location for what will become the first liquid-fuel rocket engine tests by a British launch vehicle to take place in the UK for 50 years.
Edinburgh-headquartered Skyrora has chosen Cornwall Airport in Newquay as the site for its inaugural engine testing programme as it builds towards an orbital launch.
The engine test will be significant in that it will become the first of its type by a British small-satellite launcher to take place in the UK since Black Arrow in the 1960s – a rocket that went on to conduct the first and only successful British orbital launch.
Skyrora considered various sites around the UK but opted for England’s south coast for their first UK test firings, in a move which marks the start of a new commercial space race.
Daniel Smith, Director of Business Development at Skyrora, said: “Our goal is to become a reliable and trusted UK launch operator, offering cost-effective, responsive launch capabilities from the North of Scotland.
“For our upper stage engine testing specifically, Newquay is a great fit due to the enthusiasm and support from the team in Cornwall, which has been critical in enabling us to move quickly.
“The airport facility provides us with a perfect short-term solution while we work towards establishing our own strategic capability north of the border for our larger engines.”
Skyrora aims to capture its share of the fast-growing small satellite launch market and has already 3D printed two separate prototype engines for testing this year as it moves rapidly along its test launch programme.
The series of test firings at Newquay are for the ‘LEO’ engine, which will eventually be used to propel the firm’s satellite launch vehicle’s upper stage, which releases the payload once it has reached orbit.
The same aircraft shelter was previously used by the team behind the Bloodhound Super Sonic Car project which will attempt to break the world land speed record next year.
Mark Duddridge, Chairman of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, who support the use of the Newquay base, said: “Our recently published Space Action Plan outlines how we intend to build a £1 billion space economy by 2030, so we are delighted to welcome Skyrora to Cornwall where we are laying the foundations for tomorrow’s global space industry.”
The Skyrora XL vehicle is on track to become the first British rocket to launch into orbit – and draws parallels with the original UK orbital rocket, Black Arrow, through its use of kerosene and hydrogen peroxide as a fuel source.
Earlier this year, the UK Space Agency committed to the creation of the country’s first spaceport in northern Scotland with launches as early as possible in the 2020s.
Skyrora aims to capture its share of the fast-growing small satellite launch market and is developing launch vehicle technology that builds on previous rocket systems with the aim of reducing the cost of launches thanks to proven technology and advanced engineering methods.
The firm draws on Britain’s launch heritage and aims to build a robust supply chain while creating new employment opportunities to inspire the next generation of talent.