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Skyrora completes rocket engine test in key step for reaching orbit

Skyrora second stage engine

Skyrora has successfully completed a test of its second-stage orbital rocket engine at Machrihanish Airbase, bringing the Scottish rocket company closer to its goal of a 2023 launch from British soil.

During the 20-second static fire test at the former RAF airbase, Skyrora’s XL orbital rocket achieved the expected thrust for launching into orbit.

“The static fire test looks, sounds and feels a lot like a rocket launch, but without lifting off. This hugely successful test was a definitive demonstration of our mobility and flexibility,” said Lee Rosen, who was recently appointed COO at Skyrora after joining from Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Edinburgh-based Skyrora’s second-stage rocket engine was assembled from its newly opened rocket engine factory in Cumbernauld. It is part of Skyrora XL’s three-stage launch vehicle and will fire up at an altitude of around 62km to 190km.

Construction of the first stage of Skyrora XL is in progress, with tests expected to commence in the middle of next year.

Machrihanish Airbase previously served as a military base and was an emergency landing site during NASA’s space shuttle era. Skyrora, which was founded in 2017, is designing and manufacturing rockets to fly small satellites into orbit. It has raised $43m (£35.1m) in both private capital and public grants, including a £2.5m investment from the European Space Agency.

Skyrora Second Stage Static Fire Test
Image credit: Skyrora

Volodymyr Levykin, founder and CEO, Skyrora, said: “Skyrora now has purpose-built rocket manufacturing and testing facilities in the UK – as well as the largest 3D printer of its kind, which we are using to produce rocket engine components.

“We recognise the value that a strong domestic space industry will bring to the UK, and we will continue to spearhead these efforts to make the UK a player to be reckoned with globally.”

Skyrora has accelerated its testing and operational plans this year. In May, it completed a successful test of its 70kN, 3D-printed rocket engine at its test site in  Gorebridge, Midlothian.

In June it hired Rosen from US-based SpaceX, where he held the role of VP of mission and launch operations.

Matt Archer, director of commercial spaceflight at the UK Space Agency, said: “It’s exciting to see Skyrora complete these static fire engine tests, building on the successful opening of its new production facility in Cumbernauld. As we soar towards the UK’s first commercial space launches, these achievements showcase our rapidly growing capabilities, and the increasing range of expertise that can make the UK a highly attractive destination for launch activities in Europe.”

Read more: Lee Rosen on swapping SpaceX for Skyrora and launching from UK soil