From Scotland to Space: Skyrora’s Contributions to Scotland’s Growing Aerospace Industry

Skyrora XL on the launch pad, a cloudy sky is in the foreground
Image Credit: Skyrora

Scotland has carved a unique niche for itself in the rapidly evolving aerospace industry. Amidst this vibrant landscape, Scotland-based space company Skyrora has emerged as a pioneering force, driving innovation and propelling the nation’s aerospace ambitions to new heights.

With a steadfast commitment to providing flexible and rapid access to space, Skyrora has become a leading player in the Scottish aerospace sector. Through cutting-edge technologies and collaborative partnerships, Skyrora is reshaping the landscape of space exploration and positioning Scotland as a key player in the global space industry.

Scotland: Space Hub

Scottish landscape
Image Credit: Bjorn Snelders on Unsplash

Scotland’s geographical location provides strategic advantages for orbital launch, positioning the nation as an attractive destination for aerospace activity. Situated on the northern fringes of Europe, Scotland offers several benefits for launch. Its northerly latitude enables polar and sun-synchronous orbital launches, allowing satellites to cover a wide range of the Earth’s surface for applications such as Earth observation and communication.

Furthermore, Scotland’s proximity to the North Atlantic Ocean provides ample room for rocket trajectories and offers launch safety with no risk to populated areas. The country’s vast stretches of unpopulated land, particularly in the remote regions of Highlands and Islands, provide ideal launch sites that offer enhanced safety and flexibility for testing and orbital deployments, ranging from vertical launch sites such as Saxavord Spaceport to horizontal launch sites such as Prestwick Spaceport. These strategic advantages position Scotland as an attractive and promising location for space companies like Skyrora, encouraging the growth of the nation’s space industry and establishing it as a key centre for space exploration.

It is for this alongside many other reasons that Skyrora signed a multi-launch deal with Saxavord Spaceport located in Shetland. Skyrora looks forward to exploring the potential of launching from Scotland to bring sovereign launch capabilities to the UK.

Further, a thriving hub for satellite manufacturing has emerged in Scotland, with numerous industry-leading companies establishing their operations here. This concentration of satellite manufacturers has created a unique need for a sovereign launch service to effectively close out the space value chain. By having a launch service within Scotland’s borders, these manufacturers can streamline their operations and reduce logistical complexities. A sovereign launch service would not only provide a reliable means of sending their satellites into orbit but also enable greater control over the entire manufacturing process, from design to deployment. This holistic approach reinforces Scotland’s position as a prominent player in the global satellite industry and helps generate a self-sustaining ecosystem of innovation and growth.

Skylark Nano launching
Skyrora’s Skylark Nano suborbital rocket launching from Shetland, Scotland. Image Credit: Skyrora

Creating Sustainable Opportunities for Scotland

A windmill on a grassy hill.
Image Credit: Thomas Reaubourg on Unsplash

As Scotland forges ahead in its pursuit to become a global leader in sustainable development, Skyrora has emerged as a key player in driving environmental responsibility within the country’s aerospace sector. With a steadfast commitment to sustainability, Skyrora has made significant strides in revolutionising rocket propulsion systems, reducing the detrimental emissions associated with conventional rocket fuels. By prioritising sustainability in both rocket designs and operations, Skyrora actively contributes to Scotland’s fight against climate change and the promotion of a greener future. 

Skyrora's dedication to sustainability goes beyond propulsion systems, also embracing green manufacturing practices through additive manufacturing and maintaining in-house testing capabilities, all aimed at reducing waste, energy consumption, and carbon footprint. This comprehensive approach places Skyrora at the forefront of environmentally conscious practices in the space industry, and the company's alignment with Scotland's sustainability goals has created a synergistic partnership that propels the nation's aerospace sector forward. 

Skyrora’s SkyPrint 3-D Printer at Work
Skyrora’s SkyPrint 3-D Printer at Work. Image Credit: Skyrora

As Scotland sets its sights on becoming a net-zero emissions country, with a strong emphasis on renewable energy and sustainable practices across all sectors, Skyrora actively contributes to these objectives. The company fosters a collaborative ecosystem that not only drives innovation but also paves the way for sustainable growth within the sector, contributing to Scotland’s overall sustainability agenda as well as actively supporting the growth of the space sector in the Scotland. 

For instance, Skyprint 2, Europe’s largest hybrid 3D printer located in Skyrora’s main engineering facility, is revolutionising additive manufacturing in Scotland. By localising the value chain, it reduces costs, enhances supply chain resilience and attracts investment. The technology’s precision and scale open up new possibilities for various industries, fostering economic growth and sustainability in the region.

Scotland’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond its terrestrial efforts, as it has also become the first country to release its own space sustainability roadmap. This groundbreaking initiative aligns with Scotland’s broader sustainability agenda, outlining Scotland’s dedication to promoting responsible and sustainable practices in the space sector, focusing on addressing challenges such as space debris, sustainable satellite design, and the circular economy. Skyrora, as a key player in Scotland’s space sector, actively supports this roadmap and its objectives. By prioritising sustainable practices in manufacturing and launch, Skyrora contributes to Scotland’s net-zero emissions goals and fosters a culture of environmental responsibility within the space industry. 

Aerial shot of Skyrora's engine test site
Rainwater from the Scottish Lowlands is collected at Skyrora’s Midlothian test site and used in the cooling system during rocket engine tests. Image Credit: Skyrora

Job Creation and Economic Growth

Skyrora’s presence in Scotland has not only fuelled advancements in the aerospace sector but has also significantly contributed to job creation in the country. As a pioneering space company, Skyrora has established its manufacturing facilities and testing sites in Scotland, leading to the creation of high-skilled space sector jobs. Engineers, technicians, and support staff are among those benefiting from the employment opportunities offered by Skyrora. 

These diverse positions further represent a knowledge transfer which takes place within Skyrora. This is proving to be a pivotal factor in Skyrora's progress, thanks to the valuable contributions from Ukrainian colleagues. With their extensive experience working with rockets such as Zenit and Sea Launch, this team brings a wealth of expertise to the UK space table, setting the stage for a remarkable collaboration to further the UK's launch landscape.

Aerial shot of Skyrora's factory floor
Photo by Skyrora

Skyrora’s activities in Scotland have resulted in substantial economic benefits, extending beyond job creation. The company’s operations have stimulated the development of a robust supply chain, fostering partnerships with local suppliers and manufacturers. This has not only supported the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises within the Scottish aerospace sector but has also enhanced the overall competitiveness and resilience of Scotland’s supply chain network.

By pushing the boundaries of technology through a series of key milestones across 2022 and 2023, including testing the integrated second stage of Skyrora XL, conducting a test launch of Skylark L from Iceland, and conducting engine testing on the updated design of our orbital 70 kN engine, Skyrora has inspired and influenced other companies and organisations within Scotland’s aerospace ecosystem. The sharing of knowledge, expertise, and collaboration has created an environment of innovation and continuous improvement. This collective drive for innovation has not only elevated Scotland’s aerospace sector on the global stage but has also attracted attention and interest from international partners, further enhancing Scotland’s competitiveness in the global market.

Skyrora Team Photo with Second Stage
Image Credit: Skyrora

Inspiring the Next Generation of Space Professionals

Skyrora has demonstrated a strong commitment to supporting up-and-coming professionals within the aerospace industry. One notable example of these efforts is sponsoring the UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (UKSEDS). Skyrora’s sponsorship of UKSEDS allows direct support to and collaboration with aspiring young space enthusiasts, offering them valuable mentorship, internship opportunities and exposure to real-world projects. 

In addition to this partnership with UKSEDS, Skyrora actively participates in outreach events at schools and educational institutions across Scotland, such as STEM the Violence. These events aim to inspire and educate students about the possibilities of a career in the UK space sector. 

By investing in the development of future industry leaders, Skyrora is playing a vital role in building a skilled workforce that can propel Scotland’s aerospace sector forward. These efforts not only address the current demand for talent but also ensure a sustainable pipeline of skilled professionals for the future. Skyrora’s focus on collaboration, mentorship, and practical experience cultivates a culture of continuous learning and innovation, promoting a new generation of industry leaders who will drive Scotland’s aerospace sector to new heights.