The first static engine test of a rocket engine in Britain in over half a century has taken place with UK based firm Skyrora.

The UK’s Space race is heating up say trade organisation UK Space. The publication reported that UK based firm Skyrora has effectively made the UK ready for launching rockets into space after a team successfully built a mobile launch complex and completed a full static fire test with the Skylark-L rocket on it – in only five days.

It is understood that the Skylark L rocket could be ready to launch from a British spaceport as early as spring 2021 and the inaugural launch of the low Earth orbital (LEO) Skyrora XL rocket by the firm is planned for 2023.

“Skyrora’s combined achievement also signifies the first vertical static fire test of this magnitude in the UK since the Black Arrow Programme, 50 years ago. The Skylark L rocket could be ready to launch from a British spaceport as early as spring 2021 and the inaugural launch of the low Earth orbital (LEO) Skyrora XL rocket by 2023. The ground test at the mobile launch complex at Kildemorie Estate in North Scotland earlier this month, saw Skyrora’s launch vehicle, Skylark-L perform all actions of a launch while restrained to the ground and prevented from taking off.

Skylark-L is a bi-liquid propellent launch vehicle. It is Skyrora’s first sub-orbital flight vehicle, ready to reach a height of approximately 100km, just on the Karman line, and carry a payload of up to 60kg. Skylark-L uses a propellent combination of Hydrogen Peroxide and Kerosene which are pressure fed into a Skyrora 30kN engine. Building up to the static fire test, the rocket engine itself has gone through three hot fire tests before integration into the vehicle. When commercial, the company plans to use their own Ecosene, an equivalent Kerosene fuel made from un-recyclable plastic waste. In Skyrora’s rocket suite, its aim is to start with launching sub-orbital rockets and move to orbital by 2023.”

Dr Jack-James Marlow said:

“It is very hard to oversell what we have achieved here with this test; the whole team has pulled through again to deliver another UK first. We have successfully static tested a fully integrated, sub-orbital Skylark L launch vehicle in flight configuration. This means we performed all actions of a launch but did not release the vehicle. The rocket engine successfully burned, with all vehicle systems showing nominal operation.

The test did not only validate the vehicle, it also tested our mobile launch complex’s ground equipment and performed many cold flow and fuel/defuel tests. In all, there were over one hundred unique operations and the team has gained vital experience. This collection of tests, combined with the 25 other engine tests this year, allow us to take another step along our technology roadmap to orbital launch. This is the first time a launch vehicle of this magnitude has been tested in the UK for many years and I am very proud of my team for achieving this.

The vehicle is now ready for flight and we are one step closer to putting the UK back into space. We see this as being the first significant step towards reaching space from our own soil and are very proud to have taken that step as part of the UK’s Space ambitions. We are now in a full state of readiness for launch. It is this milestone that is the start of the UK’s new space revolution, a fantastic example of the potential of what the UK Space holds for future. With the expertise in place and all the necessary hardware at the ready, we are poised to take the next steps in making the UK a serious leader in the Space business once again.”

Skyrora’s chief executive officer, Volodymyr Levykin said:

“As the launch aspect of the UK’s new Space industry starts to emerge, there will be many events that have never happened here previously and this is one of them. This was a mammoth effort in very trying circumstances, so it is quite an achievement to be proud of. The operation was carried out while having to adhere to very strict social distancing measures, and in an extremely remote location, providing additional challenges, all of which were handled expertly by all the team.

We see this as being the first significant step towards reaching space from our own soil and are very proud to have taken that step as part of the UK’s Space ambitions. We are now in a full state of readiness for launch. It is this milestone that is the start of the UK’s new space revolution, a fantastic example of the potential of what the UK Space holds for future. With the expertise in place and all the necessary hardware at the ready, we are poised to take the next steps in making the UK a serious leader in the Space business once again.”

This is part of wider efforts to launch satellites into space from the Scottish Highlands.

In July 2018, the UK Space Agency (UKSA) announced that it was backing proposals to develop a vertical launch site at Moine, Sutherland. The launch site is expected to create around 61 highly skilled jobs in Caithness and Sutherland. At a regional level, the local council estimate this figure will multiply to 250 jobs, with launch activities making Caithness and Sutherland the hub of a significant new space sector.

You can read more about the Sutherland launch site here.

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Dalecn

It will be great when the UK can launch satellites into space we have one of the biggest satellite producing industries on the planet but were missing the ability to launch them with this ability it could further increase our jobs in this sector and market share. Hopefully eventually it could make the UK government realising investing heavily in the UK Space Agency is a good idea.

RH

When Scotland becomes independent its going to have plenty of UK assets for free.

ChariotRider

This is obviously good news and nice to see investment into a high tech British industry.

I actually worked briefly with a chap who worked on Black Knight! 50 years is a long time to be out of the space race. The UK remains the only spacefaring nation to stop after a single satelite launch. Apparently that launch was cancelled before the event but they were also set to go so did anyway! Not sure how true that was, but it came from people who were around at the time.

Spyinthesky

Yes I think I have heard that story. Wasn’t it around this time some of our advanced rocket engine technology which they had been closely following went off to the US once our efforts were closed down. Damned if I can remember where I read that mind.

JohnHartley

It was said that Edward Heath, gave up Black Knight to please the French, so they would agree to Britain joining the “Common Market”.

Spyinthesky

Sounds entirely plausible sadly, especially if they were looking for an excuse to make or save a quick buck as they were everywhere especially when one shade of Govt inevitably replaced the other on a regular basis and reversed everything. A very sad time of Britain pretty much giving up on any real idea of competing or leadership beyond fire fighting, while being almost desperate for a deal that might improve matters based on hope more than any actual plan. Gives me a chill looking back on those depressing days.

Andy P

Sadly it doesn’t seem that even governments who have ‘got their feet under the table’ are any more disposed to investing cash on anything that isn’t going to have short term political expediency.

Steve H

Sadly, that’s a really short sighted policy as it means that any decent long term projects are ignored for quick fixes. Unfortunately for the space exploration industry, which needs long term investment, this puts them towards the back of the queue.

Andy P

What ??? and do something long term that someone else can get the credit for ????

There doesn’t seem to be much nobility in politics I’m afraid, You don’t need to look very far to see its all about self interest.

Is it right ? No, Is it gonna change ? No. 🙁

Jas

We were promised multiple cheap launches by the US, which as per never came to be.

Steve H

Yeah…. and look at how that ended up, eh?
We really did hand over our sovereignty at that point but nobody realised what was going on. 🇬🇧🇬🇧✌️✌️

mikeytee

That, I can believe!

Barry Larking

Black Knight was a highly successful programme that ended after the final launch placed a British communication satellite in orbit. ‘Prospero’ is still up there. There is an example of Black Knight in the Science Museum together with details of the whole depressing story (and my source) of failing to back a world beater. John and Spy: It was Blue Streak technology that was handed over to the French not as far as I know, Black Knight. People continue to mutter about T.S.R.2, but the aerospace shambles is larger and deeper than that project. I am not a conspiracy fan,… Read more »

Cam

Yep Prospero can still be seen orbiting earth on certain days, amazing.

Steve H

Barry….. The civil service have a lot to answer for in my opinion, the latest incident being when they turned on Priti Patel and called her a bully… which is ridiculous. Its more likely that she told them to get off their arse and do as they’re told.
In my opinion it isn’t really the Government that runs the Country, its the left wing civil service which is in control…… and that’s not good at all.

WeeWill

Can we stop using this ‘left wing’ beating stick to automatically mean incompetence / pacifism / any other ill people determine. The bias taints any contribution made.

4thwatch

The French really are Toxic.

dan

Let’s hope it goes better than this week’s attempted launch of Virgin Orbit LauncherOne rocket. It basically just dropped off and fell from the 747 launch aircraft.

Spyinthesky

Oh dear Branso isn’t having much fun at the moment keeping his businesses flying is he.

dan

He might have to sell one of his yachts. lol

JohnHartley

While I have no love for beardy, I do feel sorry for the thousands on ordinary pay who work for Virgin airlines.

Andy

I wonder how much a small sat launch will cost. I wouldn’t mind chipping in if anyone want to crowdsource one.

Cam

Ok, as long as it’s a moon orbiting satellite, even a mini satellite as the tech has become so much smaller and capable, I want to put the “moon” landing business to rest with a small satellite capable of high resolution images… oops you were joking!!

Rob Collinson

What no video?

Nimmeron

I wish the UK well in this endeavor but the small sat launch market is increasingly becoming saturated with entrants and has become extremely cut-throat. ArianeSpace still hasn’t flown their re-configured Vega C since the last one blew up, and other traditional space powers such as India, Japan, China, and Russia are also competing for that market. And then in the commercial market there’s Rocket Lab with it’s low-cost Electron rocket that they’re aiming to start reusing plus a ton of American and Chinese startups with rockets to be tested over the next year. On top of that SpaceX is… Read more »