SKYRORA 2019: A YEAR IN REVIEW
A letter from our CEO
As we head into the year 2020, humanity is on the verge of a fundamental paradigm shift. Just as the internet radically altered the dynamics of human socialising, the opportunities afforded to us by Space are in the process of radically changing human perception of the environment in which we live.
We at Skyrora are playing our part. By challenging the traditional perception of “Space”, access to Space and by making vertical launch a real and viable economic sector in the value chain of Earth observation, we are pushing the boundaries of what is possible, and taking bold steps in unlocking the New Space economy.
It has been a busy year for Skyrora and whilst we continue to look forward, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on our achievements and progress in 2019. Working in tandem with strategic partners, we have reached several key milestones, of which the team should be very proud. Despite the initial difficulty of selecting what we believe to be the most outstanding, the team has, after much deliberation, compiled a list of our top events from 2019.
I am proud to have taken part in all of these wonderful achievements in 2019, and I am confident that 2020 will be even more spectacular. We at Skyrora are grateful to the UK Space Agency, European Space Agency, Civil Aviation Authority, Scottish Enterprise, Department for International Trade, and other friends and followers for their role in facilitating the growth of the New Space economy. Without the talent, hard work and dedication that we all have demonstrated, achieving such a goal would be truly impossible.
Our accomplishments in 2019
Unveiling a Black Arrow after being repatriated from the Australian outback
Skyrora proud repatriated R3 Black Arrow from the Australian outback back in January 2019. A gala dinner was held to unveil Black Arrow’s return to the UK. Among the guests of honour were two of the engineers who worked on the original Black Arrow programme. They both recalled and shared their emotional attachment to the rocket, one of them even vividly retelling the last night with the rocket before it was launched in 1971. The evening was a tribute to the UK’s long-term space plans, and a very fitting platform for hundreds of guests from the space industry from far and wide to rekindle their aspirations for the future of UK Space.
Skyrora was proud to have been asked by the Scottish Parliament to participate in one of Holyrood’s first space debates, exhibiting the Black Arrow artefacts outside the Parliament building. The rocket has subsequently been loaned to the Farnborough Air Museum.
March – April
Range of test vehicles are ready for launch
Skylark Micro, our two-stage solid rocket and SkyHy, our hybrid suborbital rocket has been assembled in the UK and are being prepared for future launch missions.
Both rocket missions will allow certain small items (up to 2kg) to be tested under the influence of g-loads at boost phase and will allow the physical test of avionics equipment under microgravity conditions. The rockets can be used to test thermal protection coating and onboard telemetry components under flight conditions – all important elements of our incremental approach while the main orbital vehicle is under development.
Launch of our workshop in Slovakia
Our proprietary composite high-pressure fuel tanks were designed and successfully tested up to a pressure of 380 atmosphere at the Slovak facility. The high-pressure vessels will be installed in both the suborbital launch vehicle Skylark L and the third stage of the orbital rocket Skyrora XL.
Launch of new workshop in Loanhead, Scotland
One of the key stages in the development of the company in 2019 was the launch of our new manufacture facility in the UK. This location provides a space to design and manufacture engines, avionics systems and other critical rocket components.
Skylark Micro and SkyHy are exhibited here and are currently being refined ahead of their first launch. Skylark Nano which has been successfully launched twice thus far, was assembled at the Edinburgh workshop by Skyrora’s UK engineers. The Edinburgh workshop also houses a High-Test Peroxide (HTP) distillery. The recently established HTP distillation process uses weak Hydrogen Peroxide and water evaporation to reach 90% Hydrogen Peroxide concentration. We use distillation and purification units to achieve the high purity HTP necessary for use as the oxidiser within our fuel systems.
Nano Launch II – Kildermorie
Skylark Nano was launched for the second time, providing proof of reusability, from Kildermorie Estate Ross-shire in North Scotland in July 2019. The flight lasted a few minutes, with the vehicle reaching an altitude of six kilometres and a speed of more than 1,811 kilometres per hour. Once at its maximum altitude of 5,849 metres, the rocket separated and fell to Earth. A parachute deployed 500 metres above the ground, with the rocket ultimately landing 809 metres away from the launch site.
The first test launch of the smallest vehicle from Skyrora’s rocket family took place in 2018.
Low Earth orbit LEO engine test – Cornwall spaceport
As part of significant progress for the launch of Skyrora XL, the third-stage test firings were undertaken for the LEO – a precursor to the engine which will eventually propel the rocket into orbit.
The LEO is said to be “the first commercially fully 3D printed bi-liquid rocket engine to be tested in the UK”, and is capable of producing 3.5kN of thrust. It runs on Hydrogen Peroxide and Kerosene, producing 45 percent less greenhouse gas emissions as compared to traditional rocket fuel, which uses liquid oxygen.
The LEO was test fired by Skyrora as Newquay Airport in partnership with Spaceport Cornwall with members of the public and media attending the witness the historic moment.
30kN engine printed and welded – ready for test
The UK’s largest ever 3D printed engine built was printed and assembled at our facilities in Loanhead. With the welding now complete, we look forward to testing this 3rd generation 30kN engine at our Scottish test site in 2020. The engine is to be used by our sounding vehicle, Skylark-L.
August – October
Engine test rig development
We developed and successfully tested and engine test rig in Dnipro, Ukraine. The testing stand has recently been relocated to the UK.
Ecosene Recognition – Award for eco fuel
Our proprietary Ecosene fuel, currently in the advanced stages of development, will substitute Kerosene in all future launches. Unlike standard petroleum-based fuels, Ecosene is fully derived from non-recyclable plastic and emits less sulphur and nitrogen.
Ecosene, along with other developmental technologies, contributes to our strategy of addressing the sustainable development goals set forth the by the UN, including those of clean water and sanitation, and climate action.
Skylark-L vehicle assembled, and pressure tested
The most commendable highlight of the year and in Skyrora’s mission to enable responsive access to Space was the assembly and pressure testing of the suborbital vehicle Skylark-L, the second largest vehicle in the Skyrora family. With this rocket assembled ahead of schedule, the next step will be to conduct a fire testing and readiness to launch in the near future.
We look forward to our ongoing fruitful cooperation with all of our partners in the years to come. Each one of us plays a vital supporting role in both Skyrora and the broader UK ecosystem in our journey to the stars. May you have a great year and a wonderful time ahead.
Congratulations and Happy New Year!
CEO Skyrora Ltd