The UK Will Enter the Launch Market as Soon as the First British Rocket Takes Off

4th Jun 2021
The UK Will Enter the Launch Market as Soon as the First British Rocket Takes Off

Despite producing plenty of satellites, the UK does not have its own British rocket developments or spaceports to launch those satellites into orbit. So far, the country cannot enter the launch market. The first and only British launcher, Black Arrow, took off back in 1971, and since then, this space niche has not been developed. Private Scottish aerospace companies, Skyrora and Orbex Space, are both developing rockets, which could help the country get back into the race and gain independent access to space. This, in turn, will support the British economy and enhance the country’s international image.

Skyrora rockets — From Nano to XL

Skyrora Ltd, founded in 2017, has several successful British rocket launcher developments that could make the UK a leader in space exploration. The company started gradually, from a suborbital rocket, with a payload of up to 1 kg, to more serious launch vehicles.

Nano, the first suborbital rocket, was designed to simulate launches and obtain flight data for the development of more sophisticated launch vehicles. Nano was launched twice, and each time, it reached a 6 km altitude.

Micro, the second suborbital British rocket launcher from Skyrora, successfully took off in summer 2020 and performed the following tasks:

  • Testing coating materials under load
  • Environment studies in a dense atmosphere
  • Aerospace experts training

Skylark L British launcher was designed as a transition from training to operational UK rockets. This rocket launcher, with up to 60 kg payload capacity, was designed for suborbital flights and crossing the Karman line at 100 km altitude (after which space begins). Skylark L tests have brought the company closer to its main goal – developing Skyrora XL, a three-stage orbital rocket with ten engines powered by innovative Ecosene fuel, which is a new type of kerosene obtained from plastic waste.

Skyrora XL will be able to deploy satellites and payloads up to 315 kg to an altitude of 500 km. Rocket engines and its first stage have already been successfully tested. The first rocket launch is scheduled for late 2022. This rocket should be in high demand among companies engaged in research, meteorology, agriculture, and information technology.

Orbex Prime British Rocket Development

UK’s second hope for its own launch vehicles is young company, Orbex Space. Its Prime development will be able to deliver up to 150 kg of satellites into a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 500 km. The promised benefits of this light UK rocket include:

  • Launching smallsats and CubeSats
  • Three types of launch services depending on satellite and payload type
  • The ability to carry out launches promptly, individually approaching each client’s needs
  • Affordable launch cost.

Prime Rocket Launch is scheduled for early 2022. Hopefully, it will take place from the first UK Spaceport in Sutherland. If everything is successful, Orbex will make history as the first British company to launch a rocket from UK soil.

In the future, Orbex also plans to build its own nanosatellites to provide a full cycle of launch services.

Both Skyrora and Orbex have good odds to carry out their plans. The companies have support from the British government, UK Space Agency, private businesses, and the public. The UK’s entry into the launch market will open up new opportunities for the British economy and return the country to its full-fledged status as a space power. All of this will become possible when the first rocket takes off from UK soil.

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