Skyrora has reached a major milestone after carrying out the UK’s first vertical static fire test in more than half a century.
The tests were carried out on its Skylark-L rocket at Kildemorie Estate, near Alness in the Highlands last Friday, and mark the first of this magnitude since the famed Black Arrow programme of the 1960s.
During the test, the Skylark-L was put through its paces while being restrained to the ground and prevented from taking off.
In order to complete the test, Skyrora said its team managed to build a mobile launch complex in record time. This was made up of several modules, including a command centre, oxidizer and fuel handling containers and a compressed gas container.
Dr Jack-James Marlow led the test operation and hailed it as a major step forward for Britain’s commercial space ambitions.
He 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.”
Marlow added: “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.”
Skylark-L is the company’s first sub-orbital flight vehicle and is capable of reaching a height of 100km while carrying a payload of up to 60kg. The vehicle uses a propellant combination of hydrogen peroxide and kerosene, which are pressure fed into a Skyrora 30kN engine.
Skyrora hopes the Skylark-L could be ready to launch from a British spaceport as early as spring 2021. By 2023, the company has set a target of moving to orbital launches.
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Volodymyr Levykin, chief executive at Skyrora, commented: “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.
“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.”
In the lead-up to the static fire test, the rocket engine itself went through three hot fire tests before integration into the vehicle. When fully-commercial, Skyrora says it plans to use its own Ecosene, an equivalent Kerosene fuel made from un-recyclable plastic waste.