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Scottish Firm Skyrora Hopes to Pioneer Space Junk Clean-ups

Ross Kelly

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Skyrora

Skyrora has conducted successful trials of a ‘space tug’ which it believes could play a crucial role in tackling the issue of space junk.

The Scottish-based rocket company believes the Orbit Transfer Vehicle, which is part of its Skyrora XL rocket, could clear debris, reposition satellites and remove defunct satellites from orbit.

Its announcement comes after a directive was signed this week between the UK Science Minister and the UN to explore new approaches to improving space sustainability.

The directive also aims to equip authorities with powers to act against organisations that are responsible for creating space junk and will establish guidelines to ensure “the conduct of space activities indefinitely into the future”.

Space junk is an issue that cannot be ignored, according to leading industry experts. There are around 34,000 objects larger than 10cm in size currently orbiting earth. Of these, around 3,000 are redundant satellites.

Moving at staggering speeds of up to 10km per second, these objects could cause significant damage to operational satellites, space vehicles or even the international space station.

Skyrora tests of its “reignitable” rocket engine – or ‘space tug’ – could mark a significant moment in efforts to tackle space junk, the company believes.

Recent tests carried out at its development facility in Fife involved a full mission duration static fire test of the upper stage of the Skyrora XL orbital class vehicle.

Skyrora CEO Volodymyr Levykin said: “Our goal was always to be mission ready once all the regulations and permissions were in place, and this development not only brings us closer to that point but also takes us beyond simply launch readiness.

“It’s important to show that even in these challenging times we are still a nation that continues to innovate and take the lead in some of our most lofty ambitions.

“We aim not only to conduct efficient launches from UK soil in the most environmentally friendly way, but ensure that each single launch mission has the possibility of conducting the level of work that would have historically taken multiple launches.”

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Skyrora has established itself as a key innovator in the UK space industry. Last January the firm achieved its first-ever eco liquid-fuel rocket engine ground tests using its Ecosene fuel, which is derived from unrecyclable waste plastics.

The fuel emits around 45% fewer greenhouse gases and is particularly suited to cope in the Scottish weather.

Levykin added: “We have found a way to not only sustain our operations in orbit, but also clean up the way on how we get there.

“Thanks to our Ecosene fuel and our Mobile Launch Complex, we are not just committed to playing our part but we are committed to being responsible and responsive to the on-going threats of global climate change. This is the right way to go forward.”

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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