Quarter 1, 2021
A Letter from our CEO
A Hopeful First Quarter for 2021
Skyrora have been incredulously fortunate to have completed such an eventful and productive first quarter of the year. Skyrora have been immensely privileged to commence the year on such a positive note, with several milestones having already been achieved thus far.
At the endorsement of the UK Space Agency and European Space Agency, Skyrora have been awarded a €3 million contract as part of the European Space Agency’s Boost! programme. This financial sum will allow operations to continue at an accelerated pace than previously scheduled, ahead of testing the Skyrora XL vehicle for launch readiness from a UK spaceport in 2022.
Skyrora are excited to have been provided with such esteemed support, with which we aim to harness toward the strengthening and advanced development of the UK space sector, making the UK a sovereign launch nation by 2023.
Steering the company in the direction of success, the Skyrora team initiated the year with important technical developments surrounding Skyrora’s environmentally focused innovative technologies. The upper stage of Skyrora’s orbital class vehicle will have capabilities way beyond the sole function of transporting payloads into orbit. The ‘Space Tug’ has now reached a standard whereby all tests conducted have had a satisfactory outcome.
The Space Tug will allow Skyrora to operate at a whole new level of efficiency, with full consideration of environmental impact considered. Environmental consciousness is an aspect of business that Skyrora would like to explore within all avenues of operation, from the methods and technologies harnessed to manufacture various rocketry components, to the ways in which we conduct business, such as highlighting the importance of environmental consciousness within Skyrora’s extensive STEM programme. Skyrora will continue to lay a heavy focus on the company’s environmental footprint throughout the rest of 2021 and through what we hope to be many years in operation.
In order for Skyrora to delegate the relevant team members to explore the company’s environmental impact and how this can be reduced, we are seeking additional help from the younger generation whom we aim to inspire. For this reason, Skyrora have taken on two new engineering students thus far, with internship applications for both the technical and business side of operations now open. This will be the first year Skyrora take on an intern within the business setting.
Identifying the importance of encouraging the younger generation to consider a career in STEM as part of their future is incredibly valuable to Skyrora as well as the space industry as a whole. As part of Skyrora’s pledge to educate and make aware the younger generation on such a topic, Skyrora are exercising an increased online presence within panel discussions and workshops centred around STEM education. Skyrora have attended a number of panels and presented the company to many students aspiring to enter a career within the space industry, with many more online events scheduled for the second quarter of the year.
We expect an extremely busy year ahead, particularly with the lifting of restrictions and continuation of operations with such a dedicated and hardworking team, supported by the financial boost from ESA. We look forward to updating you along the way.
CEO Skyrora Limited
Skyrora Receives ESA Financial Support to Enhance Development
The European Space Agency (ESA) has provided Skyrora with a €3 million contract to ensure that the company is able to complete at pace the development of its launch vehicle technology. This funding was approved by the UK Space Agency, and places Skyrora at the forefront of the UK’s ability to launch satellites from Europe, while enabling the UK to achieve the key government ambition of becoming a sovereign launch nation.
This financial sum has been provided as part of the European Space Agency’s Boost! programme. The sum will allow Skyrora to complete the production of essential technologies that are imperative to the deliverance of consistent orbital launch from UK soil using the Skyrora XL launch vehicle.
The Skyrora XL launch vehicle is a three-stage rocket that stands at 23 metres tall and weighs a hefty 56 tonnes. The rocket is capable of transporting up to 315kg of payload into polar and sun-synchronous orbits, with an estimated timeline that will see a test launch from a UK spaceport in 2022.
Evidenced by four launches of Skyrora’s sounding rockets, a full static fire test of the largest suborbital vehicle in the design suite and verification test of the third stage of the orbital launch vehicle, Skyrora is at the forefront of technological readiness within the UK space sector. The support from ESA will enhance Skyrora’s progress toward aiming to achieve sovereign orbital launch in the UK.
With this financial encouragement, Skyrora will be able to substantially increase the pace at which we will be able to complete the next stages scheduled on our technological timeline and become the leading company in the UK space sector to launch satellites from European soil. Drawing vast inspiration from the Black Arrow programme and the British engineers who were a part of the programme in the late 60s and early 70s, Skyrora are honoured to be advancing such revolutionary work for the benefit of the UK space sector.
Sustainability Efforts Successful with Skyrora ‘Space Tug’
Successful testing of the Skyrora XL third stage engine or ‘Space Tug’ have placed Skyrora at the forefront of ensuring world leader status for the UK in consideration to the disposal of space junk.
The Orbit Transfer Vehicle will offer an abundance of environmental benefits, allowing multiple payloads to be deployed into their chosen orbits from the same launch, minimising the environmental impact by reducing the number of launches required. It will also have the potential to reposition satellites and other spacecrafts, to remove defunct satellites from orbit, and to transport these satellites and other space debris to disposal orbits.
This innovative piece of technology demonstrates Skyrora’s commitment to space sustainability and is one of the many initiatives that will allow the UK government to meet its goals as part of the space sustainability agreement recently signed between the UK and the UN.
This space sustainability agreement obligates the UK government to organise various events and make outreach efforts that are ultimately intended to promote the Guidelines for the Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities (LTS Guidelines).
Skyrora is a company already established as a crucial visionary within the UK space sector, all the while ensuring that sustainability within the space environment is held as a core value within all aspects of business operations and overall vision of the company.
Skyrora is well underway in the creation of innovative technologies with environmental focus, having already established a method of launch that causes minimal damage to the environment. This innovative launch infrastructure is substantially containerised and portable, therefore the ground footprint and ecological impact are minimised by design.
The most recent milestone in the company’s investment into sustainable technologies is the successful testing of the upper stage of the Skyrora XL launch vehicle. Capable of manoeuvring in orbit, the Space Tug underwent a full mission duration static fire test, burning for a total of 450 seconds over three separate firings. This testing took place at Skyrora’s engine development test facility located in Fife, and the successful results allow for a full mission-ready Space Tug.
This technical development brings Skyrora closer to mission-ready status, while taking the company beyond launch readiness by demonstrating that even through challenging times, the UK space industry is one that continues to innovate and take the lead in some of the country’s most lofty ambitions.
Skyrora’s Weather Balloon Launch Programme for 2021
Skyrora’s weather balloon launch programme was initiated at the end of the first quarter of this year, with the first balloon launch taking place in the middle of March. The weather balloon was launched as part of the testing process for the tracking system that will be used on board Skyrora’s largest suborbital launch vehicle, Skylark L. It achieved an impressive height of 31.7km, or 104,002ft.
The weather balloon launch programme will continue into the second quarter of 2021, depending on weather conditions, with two more launches planned to be flown in the next two months and estimated to reach heights of over 110,000ft.
Student Recruits Join Skyrora Staff
Two new recruits have joined the Skyrora team as part of the company’s graduate student placement programme.
The two new members will work with the permanent team to support the company’s aim in putting the UK back into space by 2023.
Selected from over 100 applicants, Bethany Taylor and David King will be positioned at Skyrora’s production facility located outside of Edinburgh. Bethany is a Mechanical Engineering student with the University of Edinburgh, while David is an Aerospace Engineering student with the University of Sheffield. Both have been taken on as part of Skyrora’s engineering team to support manufacturing processes, vehicle launch operations, and further testing of the Skyrora XL stages, collectively assisting the company in achieving its goals for the year.
Generating an annual income of approximately £15 billion, the UK space industry now employs over 40,000 people up and down the country. The Scottish space industry employs over 7,000 people spread across over 130 different companies.
Supplanting STEM Efforts from Skyrora
Summer placement student Katie Lockhart inspecting propellant density.
Skyrora have been immensely fortunate to implement an increased online presence at virtual STEM events thus far in 2021. Skyrora have had the privilege to take part in collaborative opportunities with the likes of STEM the Violence, a company that promotes STEM as a tool to empower the younger generation with which to veer themselves away from crime, as well as organisations such as GUSEDS and UKSEDS.
In March alone, Skyrora were able to complete an online presentation for students at the University of Edinburgh aspiring to look toward a career within the space industry. We were also able to virtually present the company at events hosted by Glasgow University Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, as well as the National Students Space Conference for UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.
Furthermore, applications for Skyrora’s Student Summer Internship Programme are now open. Skyrora’s internship programme provides students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with working as part of a company aiming to put the UK back into space. This year, Skyrora are offering 1 x business and 2 x engineering summer placements. The 10-week paid summer placements will see students contributing to major projects in the development of our orbital launch vehicle, Skyrora XL, and will provide the opportunity for students to work alongside field experts within the organisation.