Skyrora conducts the first space rocket test in Britain for 50 years
A UK-based company has carried out the first static engine test of a space rocket in Britain in over half a century. Built and operated by Skyrora, the Skylark L rocket earlier this month carried out a full-scale launch test while restrained at a mobile launch complex built in only five days at the Kildemorie Estate in North Scotland.
In the 1960s, Britain's entry into the Space Race was the Black Arrow, built by the Royal Aircraft Establishment and Westland Aircraft. Though it was launched four times from the RAAF Woomera Range Complex in Australia, including the launch of the Prospero satellite, the rocket was test-fired on the Isle of Wight. Since then, no large, complete rockets have been test-fired in the UK until now.
The Skylark L is a suborbital rocket designed to deliver 60 kg (132 lb) payloads to an altitude of about 100 km (62 mi) as part of Skyrora's development of its larger Skyrora XL, which will carry satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO). Skylark L is made out of a number of composite materials and is powered by a 3D-printed engine running on hydrogen peroxide and kerosene, punching 6,744 lb (30 kN) of thrust. Eventually Skyora plans to ruse a kerosene-equivalent fuel called Ecosene that's made from un-recyclable plastic waste.
Skyror says the recent static firing came after three hot-fire tests of the engine before it was integrated into the launcher. The static test of the full vehicle was conducted using the company's mobile launch system, which consists of several modules that comprised the command center, propellant containers, power generator, erector/launcher, and a compressed gas container.
“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," says operations leader Dr. Jack-James Marlow. "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.
“The test did not only validate the vehicle, it also tested our mobile launch complex's ground equipment and performed many cold flow and fuel/defuel tests. In all, there were over one hundred unique operations and the team has gained vital experience."
The Skylark L is scheduled to fly by the middle of next year, followed by the orbital flight of the Skyrora XL rocket by 2023.