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  • Writer's picturePhilip Day

Weekly UK Space Roundup 18th June 2020

An astoundingly busy week so far in the UK Space industry with news popping up all over the nation from nigh on all of the big names operating here at the moment.

With lots more content than we have time in the round-up there are links below to some incredible content that almost made the cut, and that you are definitely going to want to know about.

That being said, we have some incredible news that's too interesting to miss.

Skyrora Shetland Launch Success!

Monday saw the successful launch of the Skylark Nano Rocket (picture credit Skyrora) from the Shetland Space Centre in Scotland.

This 2m solid rocket's 3rd successful flight reached an altitude of approximately 6,000m by producing 7579Ns of impulse over a 5s burn. This flight was a research & development launch for the company in their mission to develop their Skyrora XL vehicle for launching payloads into Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO) which will utilise three liquid fuelled stages. We're hoping for more on that platform soon.

At the other end of the country, Spaceport Cornwall celebrated alongside many of our UK Space businesses the announcement yesterday by Virgin Orbit of their Tier 1 shortlist for supporting equipment (Aircraft Transportable Ground Support Equipment) to their operations in Cornwall. Perhaps unsurprisingly huge players such as Boeing and Airbus are listed, alongside giants such as Thales, Marshall Aerospace and Babcock International. Also ranking in the shortlist are Added Value Solutions, European Astrotech, Haskel Europe and Hyde Aero Products. All of this at a time when Newquey has been warned that it might be the hardest hit town in the UK by the economic impacts of COVID-19, comes as a welcome boost to the local economy.

Thursday's announcement by C6 Launch, one of our Canadian counterparts that Shetland Launch Centre is set to become their Primary Launch Facility for nano-sats going into SSO further strengthens the positive news for the space-port industry here in the United Kingdom.

"In SCC, C6 Launch finds a perfect partner: Shetland Space Centre"

C6 Launch's President, Richard McCammon said of the partnership: "In SCC, C6 Launch finds a perfect partner. Shetland Space Centre will provide all the infrastructure from launchpad to data communications and tracking that we could ask for. Being at the northernmost location in Scotland gives us the latitude we need to insert nano satellites to the perfect orbit."

The 13 metre C6 Launch rocket intended for use out of Shetland consists of two liquid kerosene stages capable of launching 30kg of payload to SSO. The company plans to fly at least 24 launches per year, most of which will come through the UK spaceport, starting in 2022. Their website is pretty slow and tricky to navigate, being way too ambitious in it's "futuristic feel" but assuming their webmaster isn't their chief engineer, this company promises to bring a lot of interesting missions to UK soil.

Mid-week Makes Promising Progress

Not to be left behind by the bookends of the week so far, Wednesday saw two absolutely huge announcements! The United States and United Kingdom governments have signed an agreement which allows US companies to launch from UK spaceports. An historic and critical moment in securing the future of UK-launched commercial space operations.

The second equally exciting announcement of the day was of the new, enormous satellite testing rig at the National Satellite Testing Centre in Harwell, Oxfordshire. Installed whilst Mace are still constructing the facility itself, commissioning should be complete ready for the 16m behemoth to be in active service before 2021. This will certainly give UK Space a real boost in infrastructure capability that is required to keep the more glamorous launch facilities fed with World-beating tech up to the size of a commercial van. The internal space in the beast you see below is an impressive 7m diameter by 12m length.

RALSpace put up this pretty cool time-lapse of the installation onto YouTube, whilst Science Minister Amanda Solloway MP commented: "this impressive new chamber ... will ensure that our space industry has the first-class facilities they need to test large, complex spacecraft as we work towards the UK’s first satellite launch."

Also in the news but not quite making the cut for full reporting was the announcement by SpaceX and confirmed by Elon Musk that they plan on using floating spaceports to operate sub-orbital Starship flights. They've recruited offshore experts in an effort to consider converting oil rigs into space-ports. Not quite the same glamorous look that their CGI showreel shows, but potentially really interesting, especially considering the unique Oil & Gas industry skills honed in the tricky and dangerous North Sea environment that British engineers possess. For more reporting on that, or to join in the conversation, check out our LinkedIn post!

Well those are the headlines in UK Space this week, but it's also worth mentioning that the recruitment market in the industry is also popping at the moment. We've come across loads of opportunities in the UK alone, and plenty more in Europe. Here's a selection of the UK roles cat caught our eye this week:

Thanks for checking in, and until next time remember that every Giant Leap is set up by thousands of small steps.

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