Blighty is preparing for take-off as Edinburgh-based rocket-botherer Skyrora test-fired its Skylark-L rocket from a location in the heart of the Scottish Highlands.
Those hoping to send a satellite to orbit from UK soil might have a while to wait, however. The Skylark-L is only capable of flinging a 60kg payload 100km up. The beefier Skyrora XL will be capable of carrying far greater payloads into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) by 2023.
The test, which occurred earlier this month at the Kildermorie Estate in North Scotland, saw the Skylark-L vehicle erected, fuelled and ignited. The rocket was held down while engineers checked systems were behaving as they should.
The team made much of the fact that it had built a mobile launch complex and tested a rocket within five days.
[… snarky bit …].
A company representative told The Register that the five days also included digging the flame trench visible above.
[… more snarky stuff…]
the endeavour still represents the first complete ground rocket test in the UK since the glory days of the Black Arrow, some 50 years ago.Prior to the static firing, the 30kN engine had been through three hot fires before integration. It was fuelled by a combination of hydrogen peroxide and kerosene (to be replaced by the company’s own Ecosene, made from plastic waste). The Skylark-L itself was then mounted on a transporter-erector that was fixed to a trailer.
“It is very hard to oversell what we have achieved here,” said operations leader Dr Jack-James Marlow, before trying his hardest to do so: “The whole team has pulled through again to deliver another UK first. 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.”
While the test was indeed a complete success, and validated both the vehicle and its ground systems, there is still a while to wait before a Skylark-L is launched. The company put that first flight from a British spaceport as being “as early as spring 2021”. CEO Volodymyr Levykin added: “We are now in a full state of readiness for launch.”
Good luck to them!