back to article Edinburgh-based rocket botherer seeks UK or overseas launch location for fun times, maybe more

Edinburgh-based Skyrora, flushed with success after getting its Skylark Nano rocket off the ground in 2018, is on the hunt for a location for its next three engine tests. As well as international operators, the upstart outfit has also invited all the potential UK spaceport locations to submit proposals to be the first to send …

  1. WolfFan

    Hmm

    It's traditional for Brits to go to Woomera in Oz for this kind of thing. You know, get it as far away from The Mother Country as possible. And, besides, no-one in Oz will notice any additional possible danger, as they're used to giant crocs, the most dangerous snakes in the world, killer kangaroos, and, most lethal, drop bears.

    Alternatively, a visit to sunny Florida might be in order. There's already a launch facility of some note there, and smaller crocs and gators, and Florida Man, so it's almost as dangerous as Oz and the locals also won't notice anything extra. They might shoot it down, however.

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Hmm

      Nice to see a British company trying to enter the small launcher market, but I do wonder what they've got that none of the their tens of competitors do. Especially as several of their competitors (eg RocketLab) are already launching payloads for paying clients, which in the rocketry business is quite unusual.

      I've heard of hundreds of companies that have billed themselves as the next big thing in rocketry. Maybe 5% of those manage to build some kind of actual hardware. Ten percent of those actually launch something (this is where Skyrora have reached, a whopping 6km of altitude). Practically no rocket company makes the final step which is to actually (successfully) launch something for a paying customer.

      As far as I know, no company has managed all of the above and also made a profit from purely commercial customers (if you can convince a government to give you money then you just might make it, eg ULA, SpaceX).

      1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

        Re: I do wonder what they've got that none of the their tens of competitors do

        Well if you don't try you won't know. This looks like another industry developing, and kudos to all who have a go.

        If Brexit happens we will need technology like this to allow us to trade with places like Australia. :-)

  2. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Go

    I have a cunning plan, my lord

    Ask 'em if you can rock up and launch LOHAN too in exchange for coverage. You know you want to.

    1. bpfh
      Thumb Up

      Re: I have a cunning plan, my lord

      LOHAN needs to fly! I need to hoist my beer mug to its namesake !

    2. imanidiot Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: I have a cunning plan, my lord

      The idea behind launching in The-middle-of-nowheresville, Bumfuck, USA was that it isn't (closely) surrounded by water and thus has a high chance of LOHAN landing somewhere it'd be dry and recoverable. Launching in Blighty has a high likelyhood of ending up somewhere wet.

      Alas, I fear that without Lester (RIP) pulling the project, LOHAN will never leave the earth.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Practicalities....

      What. You mean further south?

      1. Dave559

        Re: Practicalities....

        Welcome to the New Darien Space Centre...?

    2. Ken 16 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Practicalities....

      It's the basis for an independent nuclear first strike capability once the RN go south

  4. steelpillow Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Steady as she goes

    At least they are staring out on the long-established but unspectacular market for sounding rockets and not being over-ambitious. Using modern technologies to make the little beasts more reliable, accurate and low-cost can't be a bad thing. A propos of what somebody wrote above, it's not how high they get that matters but how cheaply and reliably they get there. I wish them all success.

  5. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Come to sunny California

    I see the desire to launch from British soil, but for testing, there are a couple of places in California that are good for that. The Friends of Amateur Rocketry site can host launches to 50,000' on the weekends and has various test stands for static firing. There are amateur events at the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada with waivers to 100,000' (could maybe go to 35km with extra permissions).

    If they can demonstrate the rocket performs as designed somewhere, just somewhere, it could be easier getting permission in the UK. It's called TRL (Technical Readiness Level). The further up the scale you can get, the easier it is to get permissions to expand the envelope of testing. Been there, done that, got the mission patch.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Come to sunny California

      I see the desire to launch from British soil

      I have always thought that Ascension island would be a better launch spot. It's a British Overseas Territory so our soil, it's only a few hundred miles south of the equator which is rather useful as you gain an extra ~1kps from the earths rotation getting to orbit and finally it's something like two thousand miles to both South America and Africa, so a failed launch (ie, rocket exploding in the early flight stage) is unlikely to inconvenience anybody too much.

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: Ascension

        Ascension is technically a spaceport already, at least notionally. It was designated as a potential landing site for the Space Shuttle, back when that was still a thing.

        1. rg287 Silver badge

          Re: Ascension

          Ascension is technically a spaceport already, at least notionally. It was designated as a potential landing site for the Space Shuttle, back when that was still a thing.

          True, but notional as you say. It was an emergency/contingency landing site, which just means the Americans built a Shuttle-capable runway (longer, reinforced, capable of supporting both a Shuttle landing and the Shuttle Carrier 747 taking off again with the shuttle piggy-backing).

          Presumably they had some equipment for safing the shuttle as far as fuel and hypergolics went, but it is just a glorified airport. There's no payload integration, fuel-handling or vertical launch facilities.

          Equally, it wouldn't be prohibitive to build such facilities - SpaceX have shown it's quite possible to run a fairly "bare pad" set-up, without massive/expensive Service Structures and the like. Unless we want to lift multiple tonnes or get to GEO though, small-sat launchers from Scotland could quite happily put little sneaky-beaky spy sats or the forthcoming LEO comm sats into polar orbits. It's a niche, but a growing one - if Skyrora can make something stick and beat out enough of the other 100+ smallsat launcher start-ups all fighting for a piece of the pie.

          1. MrXavia

            Re: Ascension

            I think sea launch is the way to go, all you need is a barge designed for the job... if you can land on one, you can launch from one!

            1. DJO Silver badge

              Re: Ascension

              Sea launch is tricky because if the launch platform is not steady as a rock your rocket will need extra fuel to steady itself in ascent.

              For landing it's not so vital to have a rigid platform.

              Also the higher your launch site the less fuel is needed to reach orbit - launching from the top of a mountain would be best, although it would then be a balance between rocket fuel and the problems in getting to the launch site, a massive funicular of some kind would be necessary.

              1. imanidiot Silver badge

                Re: Ascension

                It's worked perfectly well in the past (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Launch)

                A partially submerged "oilrig" style ship is stable enough in weather permitting a rocket launch to not affect a launch in any way. The rocket will have stabilized it's trajectory probably before clearing the launch tower.

        2. Ken 16 Silver badge

          Re: Ascension

          So is Prestwick

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Giveth and taketh away...

    It is good to see progress in various UK-based rocket projects, more so in terms of Scotland's own high-tech industries.

    Just a shame that one of the UK's longest-operating ground stations at Dundee University closed last month after some 44 years of NERC-funded data collection, and closer to 50 years of work when the original electronics engineering research is included. A last chance to see its web site before decommissioning:

    www.sat.dundee.ac.uk

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dundee Satellite Receiving Station

      Dundee Satellite Receiving Station sounds interesting, but I had never heard of it, sadly.

      It's one of those strange things: the USA is very vey good at bigging-up and publicising its own achievements (and why not, if you don't blow your own trumpet, nobody else will), but I am sure there are all kinds of interesting things going on in the UK and yet nobody seems to put anywhere near as much effort into publicising that they even exist and what they do. (This is probably around the point where I should bemoan the much-missed Tomorrow's World and Equinox tv programmes as well...)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dundee Satellite Receiving Station

        I think that web site went up in 1994 or so, and so it pre-dated the wayback machine (which has no 1996 entry for it with the first in 1997, but at that point it was taking a year to crawl the net AFIK so maybe not a surprise).

        As such is it part of the Internet pre-history but soon may be gone completely.

  7. Mystic Megabyte

    Boring!

    Yet another fecking chemical based rocket. Come on! This technology is totally outdated. The only problem with anti-gravity is that it will be weaponised 2 seconds after it's invented.

  8. albaleo

    Edinburgh has been preparing for a rocket launch since 1840

    Almost ready to blast off.

    https://st.focusedcollection.com/9165446/i/650/focused_177829614-stock-photo-walter-scott-statue-scott-monument.jpg

    1. OssianScotland

      Re: Edinburgh has been preparing for a rocket launch since 1840

      You beat me to it. A steampunk space race competitor.

    2. Stoneshop
      Pint

      Re: Edinburgh has been preparing for a rocket launch since 1840

      "Beam me up, Scott"

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Edinburgh has been preparing for a rocket launch since 1840

      That looks remarkably like a baroque version of Thunderbird 3! Thanks for the link!

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: Edinburgh has been preparing for a rocket launch since 1840

        That looks remarkably like a baroque version of Thunderbird 3! Thanks for the link!

        I don't usually remember poems, but I do recall Henry Normal's "Ode The Scott Memorial"...

        The Scott Memorial is a strange thing to see

        It looks quite a lot like Thunderbird Three

        Which is really quite odd

        When's all's said and done

        Because Scott was the pilot of Thunderbird One

  9. Conundrum1885

    Re. Anti-gravity

    Nah. People inventive enough to make it work generally end up creating a portal to an alternate Universe.

  10. PhilipN Silver badge

    Simple Physics

    Belize is still part of the Commonwealth and is close to the Equator?

    1. Citizen99

      Re: Simple Physics

      Simple physics - an Equatorial launch site is best for Geostationary orbits. Like communications satellites.

      Simple physics - a far-North (or far-South) launch site is OK for Polar orbits. The Earth rotates below the orbit giving wide scan coverage.

      There's a lot of interesting science to be done near the Poles - Earth's magnetic field interaction with the Solar Wind - think the Aurora Borealis.

      BTW For decades there were hundreds of the UK-produced original Skylark rocket launches for research - not necessarily Polar, depending on the mission.

  11. unixy

    Epic title

    Inspired .

    Really had me smiling :)

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