Quarter 3, 2023 in Review

Skyrora team outside rocket facility in Scotland
Image Credit: Skyrora

Term: July - September | Issue 6 | Date: 11th October 2023

A close look at the work carried out by Skyrora over the last few months.

A Letter From Our CEO

With the summer months coming to a close, Skyrora approaches the completion of key technical milestones along our journey to reach orbit, continuing to move from strength to strength as we establish our agile end-to-end launch offering for customers globally. This quarter, we have continued to push towards qualifying our innovative 3D-printed 70 kN orbital engine for the first and second stages of our orbital XL vehicle at our facilities here in Scotland, while business collaborations with internationally-renowned companies have taken place in parallel. Collectively, this activity is set to help put the UK on the global space map and catalyse future sector growth.

Towards the end of the quarter, we were excited to announce our partnership with CGI and Viasat to demonstrate the capabilities of the novel in-space telemetry solution, InRange. By enabling the continuous transmission of telemetry data during flight, InRange ensures safe access to and activity in space, not only enabling cost-effective missions, but also reducing the amount of dangerous space junk left behind in Low Earth Orbit. I look forward to our suborbital launch vehicle system, Skylark L, being used to conduct ground tests of InRange as the project commences, closing a key market gap for launch vehicle providers worldwide.

Beyond these business partnerships, Skyrora also welcomed key stakeholders from across the space value chain to our engine manufacturing facility just outside of Cumbernauld to showcase our technical progress and discuss opportunities for joint sector growth. Among these stakeholders was UK Space Agency Director of Launch Matt Archer. By providing insight into the rapid development of Skylark L and the first stage of Skyrora XL, both of which we plan to test early next year, we are able to better inform the Agency’s key decisions surrounding investment and support that will ultimately generate local wealth and future sector growth.

Prioritising sector growth through relevant government support for launch is more important now than ever if we are to make Minister George Freeman’s commitment to establishing the UK as a leading nation in the LEO European launch market by 2030 a reality. It’s no secret that a host of barriers to growth exist for SME’s in the space sector, from technical skills gaps and funding challenges to the complexities of navigating the UK’s newfound regulatory space environment. However, I am confident that the right support from the government will enable Skyrora to conduct a timely demo orbital launch from UK soil, resulting in a ‘domino effect’ of commercial activity that will take the nation’s space sector to new heights. This sentiment has been reflected in the UK government’s recently released National Space Strategy Action Plan, and I look forward to seeing this in practice.

As always, I would like to acknowledge my utmost respect and appreciation for those supporting Skyrora within the UK Government, as well as other stakeholders including the UK Space Agency, European Space Agency, Civil Aviation Authority, Scottish Enterprise, DiT, and DFT. Finally, I would like to recognise the talented team at Skyrora, who are shaping the future of UK launch on a daily basis through their hard work and innovation. I look forward to closing out the year with even more technical progress and international business activity as we draw nearer still to reaching orbit.

Volodymyr Levykin, CEO Skyrora Limited
Skyrora rocket engine facility in Scotland
Image Credit: Skyrora

Skyrora, Viasat, and CGI partner to develop a commercial space-based launch vehicle telemetry solution

Skyrora rocket manufacturing facilities in Scotland
Image Credit: Skyrora

Towards the end of the quarter, Skyrora, Viasat, and CGI announced a partnership to demonstrate InRange, a space-based launch vehicle telemetry relay system which will benefit launch vehicle providers across the industry globally. InRange will enable Skyrora to achieve continuous transmission of telemetry data during flight, going beyond the utilization of traditional ground stations, which are limited to connecting with a launch vehicle beyond the horizon line.

As an extension of Skyrora’s existing contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) through the Boost! Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support Programme, the initial stage of the project will include Viasat conducting ground testing of the InRange solution with Skyrora’s suborbital Skylark L launch vehicle system. Overall, the partnership marks a step forward in ensuring flexible and cost-effective space missions by filling a key market gap for launch service providers.

Read the full press release here.

Skyrora welcomes UK Space Agency Director of Launch and other stakeholders across the space value chain to discuss strategic collaboration

Skyrora rocket facilities in Scotland
Image Credit: Skyrora

This summer saw Skyrora host a variety of key stakeholders from across the space value chain at our engine manufacturing facility just outside of Glasgow, the largest of its kind in the UK. These visits enabled Skyrora to showcase the development of our suborbital Skylark L and orbital Skyrora XL vehicles as we approach demo launch to prove technical capabilities central to reaching orbit, including but not limited to tracking, in range safety, and pressurised tank flow.

Discussions with the UK Space Agency Director of Launch, Matt Archer, comprised part of the Agency’s larger engagement with the launch and space sector to inform key decisions surrounding investment and support that will ultimately generate jobs and wealth for the UK, as well as catalyse future sector growth.

Image Credit: Skyrora

Other discussions central to catalysing sector growth through the sharing of industry knowledge were held during visits from the Department for Transport Minister of State (Decarbonisation and Technology), Jesse Norman MP alongside his team, as well as members from the Lowland Reserve Forces and Cadets Association.

Spotlight: Skyrora raises awareness of unique service offering through coverage in The Guardian

Skyrora rocket engine firing
Image Credit: Skyrora

The three-stage Skyrora XL will be powered by 3D printed engines and in the near future should, if the company’s plans work out, be launching around a dozen satellites a year from Unst, the most northerly inhabited place in the British Isles. Here, rockets can be fired over the open waters of the North Sea and will carry probes on polar orbits where Earth-monitoring spacecraft can study sea-level fluctuations and ice-sheet changes as the planet revolves beneath.

“In a few years, we hope to launch a rocket every month,” said Euan Clark, Projects Team Lead at Skyrora. “There are nine engines on the Skyrora first stage and another in its second stage, which means we will have to build one of them every three or four days to keep up that schedule.”

These highly complex engines will burn a kerosene-peroxide propellent, which offers key advantages, added Clark. It produces less pollution than standard fuel and can remain stored in a rocket on a launchpad for several days – in contrast to most launchers, which currently use liquid oxygen that has to be drained from the craft when delays occur. Given the unpredictability of weather in Shetland, an ability to keep fully fuelled rockets on a launch pad for long periods will be a key benefit.

Read more here via The Guardian.

Skyrora champions STEM involvement and furthers international collaboration through attending industry events

STEM event Scotland space industry
Image credit: Skyrora

We were delighted to engage with prospective clients across Europe at the 6th ESA Cubesat Industry Days in the Netherlands this September, which acted as a forum to exchange information on the latest developments and future priorities for ESA within the cubesat domain. Once operating commercially, Skyrora’s tailored LEO launch service will directly cater to small and cube satellites to help actualise these priorities, including earth observation, scientific research, and technology demonstration.

Alongside commercial engagement, Skyrora was also thrilled to be part of the UKSA Space for Everyone tour on both the Aberdeen and Glasgow legs. With STEM engagement being a cornerstone value for Skyrora, it was an honour to raise awareness of the thriving space sector here in the UK and get the next generation of leaders excited about career possibilities in space.

Learn more about Skyrora's STEM engagement here.