The Edinburgh-based launch vehicle specialist said the facility will enable it to do vital engine tests that will provide the data eventually allowing it to launch its first rocket into space, supporting Scotland’s aim to be a space hub.
The firm – which recently announced the appointment of renowned astronaut Tim Peake to its board – said that at the site it has already successfully tested its 3.5-kilonewton (kN) engine and three-tonne engine for its sub-orbital and orbital rockets.
Skyrora said the engine test complex layout is “fairly minimal,” mainly comprising a fuel and oxidiser loading system to put fuel into both tanks and a pressure supply system to feed the fuel to the engine in the test stand. The firm also built the test stand, the road to access the site and the concrete slab to support it.
“It took the team only a few weeks to build it, at a fraction of the estimated time and cost, while making sure all measures followed health and safety guidelines,” said the firm, which also has a production facility at Loanhead, Midlothian.
Skyrora’s vision is to test all three engines used on its rocket suite in the same location: the seven-tonne engine for the first and second stage of the orbital Skyrora XL launch vehicle, the 3.5Kn engine for the third stage, and the three-tonne engine for the sub-orbital Skylark L launch vehicle.
Both Skylark L and its 22-metre sibling Skyrora XL are to use Ecosene – a kerosene equivalent developed by Skyrora and made of waste plastics. The test site is estimated to help Skyrora create more than 170 mainly technical jobs in manufacturing and operations ranging from mechanical engineering to electronics for avionics systems.
Chief executive Volodymyr Levykin said: “The opening of our engine test complex represents a giant leap forward for the UK’s ambitions as a space nation and Scotland’s status as a space hub. The location and additional jobs will benefit the UK space industry and help the overall economy grow. “It will also allow Skyrora’s highly skilled workforce and a young generation of engineers and technicians to be a part of this space revolution.”
The announcement comes after the firm in June launched a rocket from Fethaland Peninsula on Shetland. The two-metre Skylark Nano rocket reached an altitude of 3.7 miles. This followed a full ground test, which Skyrora said was the first in the UK since the Black Arrow Programme 50 years ago, of its second-largest launch vehicle.
In January, Skyrora said it had completed up to 25 tests on its 3.5kN upper stage orbital engine, testing its Ecosene fuel. Skyrora is now looking at expanding the test site to allow it to test its seven-tonne engine.
Engineering manager Jack-James Marlow said: “Our engine test complex is a fantastic opportunity for Skyrora and the UK space industry. Scotland is heading towards an unprecedented growth in UK space and our complex is one step closer to achieving this.” The business aims to complete the inaugural launch of Skyrora XL from a UK spaceport by 2023.
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