In recent years, small satellites, or smallsats, have been in high demand. Less expensive and easier to launch than a full-sized satellite, smallsats and CubeSats can be launched into space in large numbers for expansive scientific or other data-gathering projects. Since their invention, many organizations and individuals have been eager to send their own miniature satellites into space, and several companies are responding to that need by building and launching smallsats commercially.
One of those companies is Skyrora, a UK company with facilities in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dnipro, Ukraine. Skyrora intends to meet the growing demand for small satellite launches, and to do it in a cost effective manner. To that end, the company plans to set up a facility to launch smallsats from Scotland, and to host a suborbital test flight in the fourth quarter of 2018. Currently, Skyrora is in the process of finalizing the suborbital build and will be testing the engine in the UK in the first quarter of 2018.
“Things are moving very rapidly at this point,” said Daniel Smith, Business Development Manager at Skyrora. “We’ve already 3D-printed various parts of our sub-orbital test vehicle and are in advanced talks about testing our engines here in Britain. We expect to grow our U.K. team substantially in Q1 2018, particularly on the manufacturing side of the business.”
The first vehicle to launch will be the Skyrora-1, to be followed by the Skyrora-XL, a suborbital three-stage rocket. The rockets run on hydrogen and peroxide, like the famous Black Arrow rocket that launched in 1971, the first from London and the launch that made the UK the sixth nation worldwide capable of launching its own satellites.
“The use of advanced manufacturing techniques, including 3D printing, access to expertise in Ukraine and our choice of propellant/oxidizer will give us an edge in what is becoming an increasingly competitive market,” said Smith.
It’s a competitive market indeed, full of other companies such as Rocket Lab, which reached orbit for the first time a few weeks ago and eventually wants to launch rockets full of nanosatellites as frequently as weekly. There are plenty of other companies also capitalizing on the growing demand for sending small satellites into space, and with technologies like 3D printing available, it’s much more feasible to build both rockets and satellites on a lower budget and at a faster pace.
Skyrora is confident in its advantages, however, and believes that it has history on its side.
“Our decision to use hydrogen peroxide and kerosene came about for a variety of reasons, and we do appreciate the link with Black Arrow and feel a certain sentimental connection to that project,” said Smith. “We’re actually planning to sponsor the build of a full-size replica Black Arrow for the Wight Aviation Museum, as we’d like to help ensure that future generations are aware of the fascinating story of Britain’s first and only satellite launcher to date.”
First satellite launcher, yes, but it won’t be the only one for much longer, if all goes as planned for Skyrora.
Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.[Sources: Space News, Euromaidan Press / Images: Skyrora]