The UK’s Space Ambitions took a step closer recently

27th May 2020
Skyrora Test Launch

Mobile Launch Complex built in five days by Scottish rocket team

In case you missed it last week, the UK’s Space ambitions took a dramatic turn as Edinburgh-based rocket launch company, Skyrora announced that for the first time in half a century, they performed a static fire test of a bi-liquid propellant rocket. And it didn’t go unnoticed…

So, just to be clear, this was a full test of the vehicle while being restrained to prevent it from launching. Basically, a complete launch but without releasing the rocket. The vehicle used for the test was their Skylark L model – an 11m tall single stage rocket.

We hadn’t paid a lot of attention to Skyrora to date as we thought they were still at quite an early stage and hadn’t declared where they were planning to launch from.. I guess the answer to that question now is… anywhere!

Their social media suggested they were all busy making PPE kit, then this happened straight out of the blue.

Mobile Launch Complex

Not only did the Skyrora team carry out the test fire successfully, they built a mobile launch complex and conducted the test all within 5 days. We asked for confirmation on the timescale and as you can see below the timescale was genuine.

And as if that wasn’t enough to put us into a state of awe, the fact that this was the first time this has been done in the UK for 50 years is an absolute game changer, and quite likely the most significant milestone in the current race to space. Demonstrating that the UK is ready for its foray into this industry.

While we are currently watching from the side lines as planning processes for the various launch sites make their way over the hurdles that planning puts up and which are likely being delayed due to the covid19 crisis, it is encouraging to see something happening in the new space sector that on the face of it represents significant progress.

The story was accompanied by a fairly slick video, presumably a mashup of gopro and drone footage in which we can see a birds eye view of the overall operation. Keeping in mind there will be a command centre and a fairly intricate fuelling arrangement it makes the 5 day turnaround all the more impressive.

An eagle eyed twitter user highlighted the use of water-filled IBCs for additional anchorage, which a Skyrora engineer explained was just an extra precaution as the launch rack was very firmly anchored. Transporting a couple of 65kg IBCs and then filling with water on-site seems a pretty smart alternative to 2 tonnes of concrete.

The company later posted on Twitter a thank you to a private Fire Engine company. I’m not sure whether their presence was a legal requirement or a just an additional safety measure, but it was also a pretty slick move to have them there.

What we don’t know is whether the Mobile Launch Complex is scalable or they have a larger version that is able to accommodate their sizeable XL rocket which the company plans to launch next year. We would assume so and of course we hope that by then at least one of the pending launch sites is ready.

We picked up on this story initially from prominent space journalist, Johnathan O’ Callaghan when he suggested he had something major to announce the next morning (20/5/2020). Jonathan covered the story for Forbes.com and it took off quite considerably.

The company CEO, Volodymyr Levykin, said in a statement afterwards…

“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.”

We will be keeping a closer eye on this company in future and will watch their progress with interest.

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