Skyrora opens UK’s largest rocket manufacturing facility

July 19, 2022

The Skyrora Vehicle Assembly Building in Cumbernauld is said to be the largest of its kind in the UK (Courtesy Skyrora)
The Skyrora Vehicle Assembly Building in Cumbernauld is said to be the largest of its kind in the UK (Courtesy Skyrora)

Skyrora, headquartered in Edinburgh, Scotland, a rocket manufacturing company using Additive Manufacturing for engine components, has opened a new manufacturing and production facility in Cumbernauld, Scotland, said to be the largest of its kind in the UK. The Skyrora Vehicle Assembly Building is excepted to enable the company to focus on its launch development practices in custom-built domestic facilities, as it works towards its goal of an orbital launch from the UK.

The Skyrora Vehicle Assembly Building in Cumbernauld consists of 5,100 m2 of factory floor and office space, with a 6,200 m2 yard large enough to contain the entire Skylark L launch complex and future Skyrora XL launch facilities for rehearsals, integration works, and launch preparation. In total, the facility roughly equates to the size of two standard football pitches and can reportedly accommodate up to sixteen Skyrora XL vehicles for assembly, integration, and launch per year.

Skyrora states that it has already started production on two Skyrora vehicles at the Cumbernauld site, which is expected to increase to sixteen per year once mass production is established. The facility enables domestic tests to be conducted which would otherwise have to be outsourced to other countries.

These domestic tests are reported to enable significant time and cost reductions and have allowed the maiden testing of the second stage of the Skyrora XL rocket to be performed domestically. The rocket has been fully manufactured and assembled in-house including the assembly of the 70kN engine produced using additively manufactured engine components. Skyrora uses its own in-house Additive Manufacturing machine, the Skyprint 2, which uses Directed Energy Deposition (DED) process to produce parts.

“This purpose-built manufacturing and assembly site, combined with the Midlothian testing facility, allows Skyrora to take direct charge of the development cycle in-house,” stated Dr Jack James Marlow, Skyrora’s Head of Engineering. “As a business, we now have a full set of domestic facilities to allow for close control of the quality and rapid development and testing of Skyrora XL ahead of its demo launch. The site will also allow us to further optimise manufacturing processes developed by our colleagues in Ukraine and scale-up launch vehicle production in the long term, enabling further expansion and growth in the future.”

The company explains that the next development milestone will be the hot fire testing of the Skyrora XL which will see the second stage attached to a stand at the company’s newly-opened Midlothian test facility as the engine simulates a real launch. This enables important telemetry data to be collected and analysed on-site. As a three-stage launch vehicle, the second stage of Skyrora XL will start its engines at approximately 62 km before releasing the third stage at around 190 km for orbital launch.

The second stage of the Skyrora XL orbital vehicle which features additively manufactured engine components (Courtesy Skyrora)
The second stage of the Skyrora XL orbital vehicle which features additively manufactured engine components (Courtesy Skyrora)

Volodymyr Levykin, Skyrora founder and CEO, commented, “To play a significant role in the emerging global space economy, the UK has to develop sovereign launch capabilities. This isn’t just about offering different locations for launch, but everything that precedes that moment. Being able to offer end-to-end domestic capabilities from development, manufacturing, testing, and launch provides the UK with a crucial advantage as it looks to unlock its capabilities and deliver on its potential on the global stage. This crucial asset would not have been possible without the dedication and talent of the entire Skyrora team, both here in Scotland and in Ukraine.”

“We’re proud to be leading the way for the UK space sector, promoting further STEM job creation that will be vital to the UK Government’s Levelling Up agenda,” Levykin continued. “As outlined in the National Space Strategy, SMEs will be central to the Government’s wider plans for the space sector, and this new site is a prime example of this. There is an enormous commercial opportunity to be seized here, and a chance for the UK to play a key strategic role in the new space economy. However, in order to do this, investment is needed at the highest level of Government to support the efforts of private companies, otherwise we risk missing the chance to future-proof the British economy and letting talent slip through our fingers.”

Skyrora notes that the Cumbernauld manufacturing and production facility has been made possible in part by the support and collaboration of the UK Space Agency (UKSA) and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Ian Annet, Deputy CEO, UK Space Agency, stated, “As we approach the UK’s first commercial space launch this Autumn, Skyrora’s new manufacturing and production facility in Cumbernauld will further enhance the UK’s reputation as Europe’s most attractive destination for launch activities.“

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