A UK rocket company has taken another step towards an orbital launch from British soil with the opening of another new Scots-based facility.
Space company Skyrora has opened a new manufacturing and production facility in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire – the largest of its kind in the UK.
After recently opening its engine test facility in Midlothian, the company says this new facility will allow them to concentrate its launch development practices in custom-built domestic facilities.
The production of two Skyrora vehicles has already commenced at the Cumbernauld site, which will increase up to 16 per year once mass production begins.
The site allows for certain tests that would typically be outsourced to facilities in other countries to now be conducted domestically.
The Edinburgh-headquartered company affirmed that conducting these tests domestically saves significant time and costs and represents a “key advantage for UK space efforts”.
As such, the maiden testing of the second stage of the Skyrora XL rocket can now be performed from UK soil, having been fully manufactured and assembled in-house.
This includes the assembly of the engine, which has been built using 3D-printed engine components.
A critical milestone for the development of the Skyrora XL, 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.
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.
The Skyrora Vehicle Assembly Building in Cumbernauld consists of 55,000 sq ft of factory floor and office space,
This is alongside a 67,000 sq ft yard large enough to contain the entire Skylark L launch complex and future Skyrora XL launch facilities, for rehearsals, integration works, and launch preparation.
The manufacturing and production site will generate new employment opportunities, accommodating up to 100 high-skilled technical and business roles.
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 has said it endeavours to become the first British company to launch a rocket from UK soil with Skyrora XL.
By 2030, the company aims to conduct 16 launches per year from Saxavord launch complex in the Shetland Islands alone.
Skyrora founder and 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.
“This crucial asset would not have been possible without the dedication and talent of the entire Skyrora team, both here in Scotland and in Ukraine.”
Levykin continued: “We’re proud to be leading the way for the UK space sector, promoting further STEM job creation that will be vital to the UK Government’s Levelling Up agenda.
“As outlined in the National Space Strategy, SMEs will be central to the Government’s wider plans for the space sector, and this new site is a prime example of this.
“There is an enormous commercial opportunity to be seized here, and a chance for the UK to play a key strategic role in the new space economy.
“However, in order to do this, investment is needed at the highest level of Government to support the efforts of private companies, otherwise we risk missing the chance to future-proof the British economy and letting talent slip through our fingers.”
Pamela Humphries, Head of Planning and Regeneration at North Lanarkshire Council, said: “North Lanarkshire is an ideal location for businesses to set up and grow, with excellent transport links, support, and a skilled workforce, and we are very pleased to welcome Skyrora to the area.
“The company operates in a very exciting and dynamic industry and is ambitious for its development, offering many opportunities for other local businesses to provide support services which can only be positive for our local economy.”