Scotland, UK-based rocket company Skyrora has opened what it claims is the UK’s largest rocket engine testing facility.
The rocket engine testing facility, which is located in Midlothian, Scotland is the first of its type in the UK and close to the company’s existing facilities.
The 120,000 sq ft Midlothian site will serve a team of up to 20 engineers once the testing site is running at full capacity. So far, the site has already seen 15 engine tests completed, with regular weekly tests being conducted.
The Midlothian facility was commissioned and brought into service within just six months. Aside from extraordinary engineering, the site was made possible in part by a grant awarded in 2021 by the European Space Agency (ESA) as part of its mission to foster new commercial space transportation services.
Skyrora’s 70kN bi-propellant engine, which emits half the carbon emissions of engines using liquid oxygen and kerosene, is currently undergoing verification testing at the facility. Nine of these engines, fuelled by Skyrora’s non-cryogenic propellant will power the 23m Skyrora XL rocket on its launch from the UK.
The site allows Skyrora to concentrate its launch development operations for the purpose of conducting acceptance tests for engines on its orbital Skyrora XL vehicle, as it aims to become the first British company to complete an orbital launch from UK soil.
Skyrora’s head of engineering, Jack James Marlow said, “The new purpose-built Midlothian site allows us to take direct charge of the development cycle in-house. By reducing our reliance on third parties and cultivating specialist knowledge within the company, the Midlothian location gives us much closer control of the quality and rapid development of Skyrora XL as we prepare for its first demo launch.
“The site also allows us to optimise our manufacturing processes, and to scale up launch vehicle production over the long term. This milestone was only made possible due to the dedication and talent of the Test Site Team.”
The launch of its three-stage orbital vehicle, Skyrora XL, is scheduled for later this year as the company bids to be the first British firm to launch a rocket from UK soil.
Skyrora founder and CEO Volodymyr Levykin said, “The opening of our Midlothian site means that Britain is another step closer to unlocking its launch capacity and potential to play a bigger role in the space economy. We would usually have the entire Skyrora family here to celebrate such an achievement, but unfortunately, our Ukrainian colleagues can’t be with us. Without them, this feat of engineering wouldn’t have been possible and I’m sure that we’ll be able to celebrate with them again very soon.
The 70kN Test site has been designed over and above the specifications required for testing of the company’s flagship 70kN Engine, to enable easier development and upgrades for future engines up to 100kN. It was designed to provide full testing capability for all engines for at least the next five years, before review and upgrade to continue further tests.
The test stand at the site was designed, manufactured and commissioned in less than eight months, making it one of the world’s fastest rocket-testing stands to ever be built, according to Skyrora. The stand also uses rainfall from the Scottish Lowlands as part of the cooling systems.
The test site is fully integrated and can accommodate not only engine testing but features offices, meeting rooms, amenities, a command centre and guest entertainment facilities.
Each container within the site is completely standardised; the workshop facilities developed at the site are the same style that will be used in launches. This is especially important in increasing team competence with systems and accelerating Skyrora’s path to flight.
The sound suppression system for rocket engine testing was designed in-house and significantly reduces the sound of the engine, minimising its travel across the environment.