Skyrora XL completes second stage static fire test
Skyrora has successfully completed the static fire test of the second stage of its Skyrora XL orbital rocket.
Discover Space UK at Machrihanish Airbase hosted the biggest integrated stage test to be held in the UK since those of Black Arrow and Blue Streak in the 1970s. The milestone moves Skyrora closer to entering commercial operations, with an inaugural orbital launch scheduled for 2023 from the SaxaVord Space Centre in northern Scotland.
The test involves hot firing the second stage engine to prove the vehicle’s operational capability for its intended payloads and ensuring its performance meets all design requirements.
Skyrora said it was successfully completed with all systems nominal through the 20-second burn, and the single 70kN liquid engine operated within design margins, achieving the expected thrust.
Lee Rosen, Skyrora COO Col (USAF, Ret) and former SpaceX VP, said: “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. Our Skyrora team went from clean tarmac to a full static fire test in just 2.5 days, bringing all the necessary equipment from our factory in Cumbernauld and test site near Gorebridge”.
The second stage was assembled at Skyrora’s recently-unveiled Cumbernauld manufacturing facility. Part of a three-stage launch vehicle, it will start its engine at an altitude of approximately 62km before the third stage is fired at around 190km to achieve orbital velocity of 28,000kmh.
Skyrora previously tested the third stage of its XL launch vehicle in December 2020, the first integrated stage test by a commercial launch vehicle developer in the UK. The first stage of Skyrora XL is currently in construction, with hot fire tests due to take place in mid-2023.
A former military base, the site at Machrihanish Airbase hosted a US Air Force detachment of strategic bombers during WW2, and was used by RAF and NATO air forces until 1997. The airstrip at Machrihanish was also a designated emergency landing site during NASA’s space shuttle era.
The completion of the second stage static fire test marks a key milestone achievement for Skyrora under its Boost! co-funding agreement with the European Space Agency, supported by the UK Space Agency.
“Skyrora now has purpose-built rocket manufacturing and testing capabilities in the UK — as well as the largest 3D printer of its kind, which we are using to produce rocket engine components,” said Volodymyr Levykin, founder and CEO of Skyrora.
“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.”