A space technology test centre including a flight test range is to be built at Snowdonia in Wales after funding was secured from the UK Government.
The UK Space Agency is giving £820,000 (US$1 million) of funding alongside private investment to build the Space Technology Test Centre (STTC) at the former Llanbedr Airfield in Snowdonia, Wales. The STTC is being built as part of the Snowdonia Space Centre in partnership with UK-based engineering firm Newton Launch Systems.
The STTC is expected to be completed by March 2025 and will facilitate the development, testing and qualification of space technology and products. It will also host training events.
Flight test range
The plans for the Centre include a flight test range for rocket-powered test vehicles, near-space scientific flights, microgravity research and trials of re-entry vehicles and payload recovery systems. This will be provided by its own immediate Danger Area and direct access to a larger Danger Area in airspace over Cardigan Bay,
The flight test range will be complemented by a space technology testing laboratory and rocket propulsion test facility.
The grant and private investment will fund the refurbishment of an existing building to laboratory standards, the installation of a clean room in another existing building, an upgrade to an existing thermal vacuum test facility, new centrifuge and a 5kN sea-level rocket test stand with fixed infrastructure designed to accommodate up to 50kN thrust to allow for future development.
Other Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) infrastructure being installed for the STTC includes two launch rails and the necessary tracking and communications equipment to enable the safe operation of the range.
Ground and flight testing
Jeremy Howitt, future flight campaign lead at the Snowdonia Space Centre said, “Flight testing facilities for rocket powered vehicles are uncommon globally, so we are anticipating interest from overseas customers.
“Providing integrated ground and flight test facilities at the Snowdonia Space Centre will significantly reduce the costs for low-TRL development of novel next-generation concepts including spaceplanes, reusable satellites with re-entry and recovery systems, tests of vehicle Flight Termination Systems and launch vehicle recovery systems.
“The combination of test range and laboratory will enable systems to be tested in ways that pure aerospace facilities and traditional space environment ground testing facilities cannot accommodate. Offering these facilities at a significantly lower price than the competition is expected to attract significant interest and expand the UK space sector.”
Snowdonia Aerospace Centre has already invested over £2 million (US$2.5 million) to refurbish infrastructure across the site so it can be used as a flight test center for aerospace and space systems. In addition, Newton Launch Systems has invested in office and laboratory facilities at the Snowdonia Space Centre to support small-scale rocket testing.
James Coleman, finance director at Newton Launch Systems said, “We are proud to be working with Snowdonia Space Centre to expand the facilities on site into the new Space Technology Test Centre. In this exciting time of growth for the global space industry, the new facility will support not just the development and testing of novel space technology, but also developing the next generation of UK space skills through training and education.”