A HOMEGROWN space company has become the first Scottish organisation to successfully launch a rocket with a commercial payload north of the border.
Taking place at the Kildermorie Estate in Ross-shire, a group of business partners and excited locals witnessed Skyrora successfully test components with a nine-foot 2.5 metre rocket reaching an altitude of six kilometres.
It allowed the Edinburgh-headquartered rocket developer to trial hardware and software intended for use on full-scale launch vehicles – as it bids to become a key launch provider at Scotland’s forthcoming spaceport.
The launch took place successfully after clearance was provided by the Civil Aviation Authority. On take-off, the rocket, referred to internally as ‘Skylark Nano’ by the team, rapidly accelerated to Mach 1.45 – more than 1100 miles per hour.
Daniel Smith, Director of Business Development at Skyrora, said: “This was a small but important step for us in our bid to become the go-to satellite launch provider at a future Scottish spaceport.
“It also gave us a great chance to build relationships with relevant authorities and with local people. That incredible support showed us that Scotland is definitely ‘up for’ spaceflight!
“Huge positives can be taken from this – from the success of our portable ground control systems, trajectory analysis and ability to capture the launch with on-board HD cameras.
“We will use the lessons learned in the next stage of our test launch programme, where we’ll be going to a far more significant altitude. For us it’s all about taking careful steps to de-risk and gain experience as we quickly evolve through sub-orbital tests towards our future orbital launch ambitions.”
Skyrora, who recently announced the location for testing their 3D printed engine, is a company established in Scotland, aiming to create orbital launch vehicles capable of taking satellites of up to 320 kilograms to polar orbit at 600 kilometres altitude.
It is aligned with the UK Government and UK Space Agency plans to launch rockets from a new spaceport in Scotland – bidding to become the adaptable UK-based provider.
The Skyrora XL vehicle is on track to become the first British rocket to launch into orbit – and draws parallels with the original UK orbital rocket, Black Arrow, through the proven combination of kerosene and hydrogen peroxide as a fuel source. “
Skyrora follows in the tradition of legendary British rocket programmes and is basing much of its sub-orbital testing programme on technology from Skylark.
The commercial element of the flight was a tie-up with popular social network Ask.fm, with a payload ejected at burn out, remaining attached to the rocket body via a Kevlar cable. A soft landing was achieved with a parachute opening at low altitude.
Earlier this year, the UK Space Agency committed to the creation of the country’s first spaceport, with launches as early as possible in the 2020s.
Skyrora, who are rapidly growing their Edinburgh based team, aims to capture its share of the fast-growing small satellite launch market and has already created two separate engines for testing at other locations this year.
It is developing launch vehicle technology that builds on previous rocket systems with the aim of reducing the cost of launches thanks to proven technology and advanced engineering methods.
The firm draws on Britain’s launch heritage and aims to build a robust supply chain while creating new employment opportunities to inspire the next generation of talent.
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