Specifically, at its Gorebridge site in Midlothian, it completed a 70kN rocket engine test as part of ESA’s Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support Programme (CSTS). The company says its bi-propellant engine emits half the carbon emissions of engines using liquid oxygen and kerosene.
The engine is notable note only for its 3D-printed constituents but is also described as being the first staged combustion engine using high-test peroxide (HTP).
The orbital engine, which was designed and produced on-site at the company with the support of the ESA’s Boost! programme, is seen as a critical component of Skyrora’s XL orbital vehicle, used on the first and second stages. It’s pictured during the test above.
“The engine passed its final development test with all data nominal and all system requirements met, which is a fantastic team achievement,” said Skyrora’s Head of Engineering, Dr Jack James Marlow.
“This test concludes a key milestone with ESA as per our CSTS contract, and now unlocks the next series of tests for engine qualification. Our unique engine uses HTP to power the turbopump, in a closed-cycle approach as opposed to Black Arrow’s open-cycle. This means we have higher engine efficiency while keeping the overall system simple. This allows us to deliver greater payload to orbit for our customers.”
The engine was fully 3D-printed, says Skyrora, and at the end of last year the company announced it had created the largest hybrid 3D printer of its kind in Europe, SkyPrint 2, which will come into full operation later this year.
The company describes its 120,000 sq ft site – in the Scottish lowlands south of Edinburgh – as a state of the art facility and the UK’s largest such engine testing facility.
The site was commissioned and brought into service within six months, which was made possible by a European Space Agency (ESA) grant – awarded in 2021 – as part of its commitment to encourage new commercial space transportation services. The test stand itself took a bit longer – it was designed, manufactured and commissioned in under eight months.
The engine will now be disassembled and refurbished ahead of qualification testing, which will bring Skyrora closer to propulsion system integration and stage testing.
“We are excited to witness the excellent progress at Skyrora with the 70kN engine development achieved with Boost! support, and we congratulate the team for completing the initial series of tests successfully!” said Dr. Thilo Kranz, Commercial Space Transportation Programme Manager at the European Space Agency.
See also: Skyrora opens rocket engine testing facility in Midlothian
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Skyrora opens rocket engine testing facility in Midlothian