Scottish rocket firm Skyrora has successfully completed a static fire test of the second stage of its flagship Skyrora XL orbital rocket, bringing the company an important closer to entering commercial operations. The test, which took place at Discover Space UK at Machrihanish Airbase, was the biggest integrated stage test to be held in the UK since those of Black Arrow and Blue Streak during the 1970s.
‘The static fire test looks, sounds and feels a lot like a rocket launch, but without lifting off!’ said Skyrora’s chief operating officer, Lee Rosen. ‘This hugely successful test was a definitive demonstration of our mobility and flexibility. Our Skyrora team went from clean tarmac to a full static fire test in just 2.5 days, bringing all of the necessary equipment from our factory in Cumbernauld and test site near Gorebridge.’
The test involved hot-firing the second stage engine in order to prove the vehicle’s operational capability for its intended payloads and ensure that its performance meets all of the design requirements. It was successfully completed with all systems nominal throughout the 20-second burn; the single 70-kilonewton liquid engine operated within design margins and achieved the expected thrust.
‘With the UK striving to capture a ten per cent share of the global space market by 2030, the successful Skyrora XL second-stage static-fire test is the latest milestone reached to put Skyrora on track to become a key part of the UK’s new space industry as the first British company to conduct vertical launch from UK soil,’ said Volodymyr Levykin, the company’s founder and CEO. ‘Skyrora now has purpose-built rocket manufacturing and testing facilities in the UK – as well as the largest 3D printer of its kind, which we are using to produce rocket engine components. We recognise the value that a strong domestic space industry will bring to the UK and we will continue to spearhead these efforts to make the UK a player to be reckoned with globally.’
The second stage was assembled at Skyrora’s recently unveiled Cumbernauld manufacturing facility. Part of a three-stage launch vehicle, the second stage of Skyrora XL will start its engine at an altitude of about 62 kilometres before the third stage is fired at around 190 kilometres to achieve orbital velocity of 28,000 km/h.
Skyrora tested the third stage of its XL launch vehicle in December 2020, setting the mark for the first integrated stage test by a commercial launch vehicle developer in the UK. The first stage of Skyrora XL is currently in construction, with hot-fire tests due to take place in mid-2023. The company’s inaugural orbital launch from the SaxaVord Space Centre in northern Scotland is scheduled to take place not long after.