back to article Actual metal being welded in support of the UK's first orbital 'launch platform'

UK rocketeers Orbex have thrown their hat in the ring of Blighty's very own space race by kicking off construction of a Scottish launch platform for its Prime rocket. Orbex Launch Platform Orbex launch platform While UK launch platforms have been heavy on the PowerPoint and CGI-powered visualisations over the years, the …

  1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    One small step

    Well, good to see something actually happening, although, I did get a bit disoriented by the second photo, which seems to be sideways, rather than the right way up. Still, I'm sure the Orbex Engineers will get things the right way up for the test rig.

    One question I've wondered about is that in the live fire tests of rocket engines, they do tend to just waste all that energy. Couldn't there be some way of capturing it, it does seem an awful waste.

    1. Def Silver badge

      Re: One small step

      Maybe you could take along some marshmallows and a (very) long stick to the next test. That's about all that energy is good for.

      Basically, I suspect setting up the infrastructure to collect energy from events that happen a few times a year during the development of a rocket engine really isn't worth the effort.

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: One small step

      I suspect that the cost of recovering the energy wound be FAR higher than the value of the energy itself.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: One small step

        According to https://www.engineeringclicks.com/ionized-gas-as-fuel/

        "Electricity generation

        Ionized gases are used in magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) generators to produce electricity. Ionized gases are made to pass through a magnetic field, thereby generating an electric current. These systems are said to be approximately 25% more efficient than nuclear power plants, in electricity generation."

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: One small step

          There doesn't seem to be anything outside the lab yet. MHD is interesting, but the first two pages of search show wikipedia and research papers. It's been talked about for years, but seems a bit like fusion. Lots of theory, but still a long way away :-)

    3. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: One small step

      I noticed the same thing.

      A closer look at the metalwork in the image does indeed show that it has been welded. That is, tack-welded. A few spots have been put on it here and there to make sure it doesn't move around or warp while they do the actual proper welding. That'll be going where the edges have been cleaned up to a shiney metal surface.

      The tack welds likely won't hold up under the structure's weight, which is why it's currently being stored on it's side. I'm guessing the image is rotated 90 degrees to give the impression that it's actually standing under it's own weight.

    4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: One small step

      t does seem an awful waste.

      How do you preserve energy from writing your comments?

  2. AdamT

    I am very conflicted about these plans (Orbex and Skylora)

    I _love_ the idea of actual space launch tech coming back to the UK but when SpaceX is really close to plausibly being able to launch a 100 tons or more to the same orbit in a fully re-useable vehicle, what is the point in this?

    Is it going to be cost effective per-kg compared to SpaceX? Or can it offer something else that a group small-sat or rideshare can't provide from SpaceX?

    It just feels a bit like we are proudly announcing a new fleet of disposable one-way mopeds to carry post from London to Edinburgh at the same time as someone else is building a fully re-useable train...

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

      My thinking is there's the angle of having a home-grown capability, so UK government/industry can spend money with a UK-based organisation for lofting things into space rather than sending money overseas.

      Imagine how good that would be....if the UK had its own sovereign capability to launch rockets and satellites into space...once that'd been achieved it'd be something that the government would never throw away and....ah...OK...as you were....

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        "Indeed, one would have to cast one's mind back more than half century and the glory days of British rocketry for the last time such facilities were set-up locally (helpfully documented by our Geeks Guide series.)"

        If we waited for any British government to get something into space that wasn't bought from another country (US), it would likely be a big length of tube hammered into the ground for the stick to go into.

        A British launch capability for smaller items would be useful for many projects that don't require the energy output of a small country to get into space.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >so UK government/industry can spend money with a UK-based organisation for lofting things into space rather than sending money overseas.

        So long as the rockets are built in Britain, with British aluminium refined with British electricity from British coal from British mines...

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Also a risk basing it somewhere that's likely to become not-Britain as soon as it gets a vote.

          Perhaps we need Spaceport Berwick ?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Yes, UK launch facilities based in Scotland could become a problem if/when they vote to leave the UK, more so if they choose to join the EU. And that's not even getting into another EU land border and the attendant problems that will bring.

            1. Ken G

              Scotland won't be in the EU for at least a decade. EFTA maybe...

      3. Dr Fidget

        Blue streak?

        I'm old enough to remember Blue Streak - cancelled after £billions spent 'cos it cost too much

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Or a Scottish-based organisation can offer that service to its neighbour, the "UK"?

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Or can it offer something else that a group small-sat or rideshare can't provide from SpaceX?

      Yes, it can send small groups of satellite in to other orbits faster/cheaper than booking the whole Space-X payload. I think one of Skyrora's selling points is the upper stage can be shut-down and re-ignited several times, allowing you to deploy payloads in different (so some degree) orbits from the same basic launch.

      Whether that turns out to be enough of a USP to make the business work remains for the market to decide.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      As Microsoft has proved so often there's absolutely no problem with anyone having a monopoly or near monopoly on something.

    4. Oh Matron!

      because putting all your eggs ina basket never ends well:

      https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/30/elon-musk-to-spacex-starships-raptor-engine-crisis-risks-bankruptcy.html

    5. Persona Silver badge

      Or can it offer something else that a group small-sat or rideshare can't provide from SpaceX?

      Even if it can there are perhaps a dozen other firms all competing for that same small and relatively inelastic market. Most of them are going to fail.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        I don’t really get it either, it’s going to be restricted to polar or very high inclination orbits as there no safe eastward range. A small still-dependent Island somewhere equatorial must be a better option and more likely to stay with the crown than Scotland.

  3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Do you not look at that rocket as if you are Gordon Freeman advancing on your goal?

  4. Phones Sheridan Bronze badge
    Trollface

    20 minutes of welding gets a headline article. Come down to my workshop, I'll give you enough similar headlines to last you years!

    1. My-Handle Silver badge

      I welded up a weather vane last Sunday and you know what, I didn't see a single reporter either.

      Mind you, it took me a little longer than 20 mins. I'm a shite welder :D

      1. TDog

        So was that a shitehawk then?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think Orbex and Skyrora are targeting the polar orbit satellite market, where a Scotland based launch facility would be ideal.

  6. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Testing is good, but...

    We all agree that testing is a Good Thing.

    But it seems a bit odd to build a complete test launch facility somewhere that it can't be used later as a live facility? Why not build the test rigs at the real spaceport and then certify them for use when the tests are complete?

    Or are they planning some big, messy 'failures' to see what an exploding booster and fuel tank look like?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Testing is good, but...

      Because the launch site is probably in the arse end of nowhere. Somewhere that it's expensive to get people and kit to and there are no local welding companies

      It's why SpaceX builds stuff in LA but launches from some 3ed world hell hole

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Testing is good, but...

        "It's why SpaceX builds stuff in LA but launches from some 3ed world hell hole"

        Soooo, Florida?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Testing is good, but...

          Worse, Texas

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Testing is good, but...

        "Somewhere that it's expensive to get people and kit to and there are no local welding companies"

        They're going to have to get people, kit and a welding company to the launch site before they go operational. But what's the planning situation regarding launch sites atm?

        1. PerlyKing Silver badge

          Re: what's the planning situation regarding launch sites atm?

          According to the Orbex press release:

          Space Hub Sutherland is the world’s first carbon neutral spaceport and the only spaceport in the UK to have received full planning permission. Construction of the spaceport is due to begin early in 2022 ahead of the first expected launch of Orbex Prime later in the year.

          I'm guessing that what Kinloss has to offer is acres of unused ex-RAF base with plenty of concrete hard standing. It may be easier to get planning permission to do dangerous, noisy things there than most other places.

        2. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Testing is good, but...

          So, close to North Sea oil servicing facilities, where there are no welding companies.

      3. PerlyKing Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: the launch site is probably in the arse end of nowhere

        So Kinloss is pretty handy for the launch site ;-)

        Source: I grew up there.

      4. bed

        Re: Testing is good, but...

        Funny how dangerous things end up a long way from London. Dounreay is almost next door.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Testing is good, but...

          A bit like Dungeness then, and Sizewell. And closer to home, every prime terrorist target.

        2. Ken G

          Re: Testing is good, but...

          "I aim for the stars"

    2. Ken G

      Re: Testing is good, but...

      It's a test test rig.

  7. ravenviz Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    More satellites?

    Yay.

    NOT!

  8. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Equator

    Me thinks that since we have left the EU, wouldn't be a better use of money to tow the island somewhere closer to equator?

    Imagine how much savings we could make on heating and we could be the Saudis of solar energy.

    Probably tan salons wouldn't let that happen though...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Equator

      Since becoming the world's leading exporter of sovereignty once again, all the warm sunny little islands near the equator will be queuing up to come onboard with global Britain.

      We can launch from one of those, the only real limit is how many ribbons the Queen can cut/year

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Equator

        We already have a number to choose from. The Cayman Islands or Bermuda might be a good choice. Low tax rates there too, although launching over Cuba might not be good, so maybe not the Caymans!

        Ascension would be another obvious choice. Near the equator, nice big RAF base with a long runway and a local NASA tracking station. Logistics a little awkward though.

        Ascension & British Virgin Islands are probably best in terms of a nice clear down range.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Equator

          Yes, precisely and French Guiana works well for Ariane.

          For comedy value only, somebody started a petition to ask the government to use Ascension for space launches. It got 6 signatures. https://petition.parliament.uk/archived/petitions/17692

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022