Edinburgh satellite launcher Skyrora selects site for ‘historic’ tests

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An Edinburgh-based company looking to meet the growing demand for small satellite launches has chosen the location for the first engine tests of their kind to take place in the UK for 50 years.

Skyrora has earmarked Cornwall Airport for its inaugural engine-testing programme as it builds towards an orbital launch. The test 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 Newquay for its first UK test firings, in a move that “marks the start of a new commercial space race”, and comes as it looks to develop capability in Scotland.

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 has already 3D-printed two separate prototype engines for testing this year as it moves rapidly along its test launch programme.

The firm is developing launch vehicle technology that builds on previous rocket systems to reduce the cost of launches due to “proven” technology and “advanced” engineering methods.

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.

Mark Duddridge, chairman of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, which supports 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 set to become the first British rocket to launch into orbit – and draws parallels with the 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 at A’Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland with a view to launching spaceflights.