New satellite propulsion test facility to propel UK into new space age

Funding | Manufacturing | South East

A new gold standard national rocket test facility will soon open its doors, Science Minister Amanda Solloway has announced today.

he new centre will allow UK companies and academics to fire up and test state-of-the-art space propulsion engines at up to 1.5kN in high-altitude vacuum, an equivalent test altitude of 140,000ft. It will cement the international reputation of the Westcott Space Cluster – where the site will be based – in propulsion.

Based in Aylesbury Vale Enterprise Zone, the facility, which is expected to create around 60 jobs, is due for completion in early 2021 and will offer companies a more affordable test facility than international rivals. It will also allow new types of more sustainable propellants to be tested, such as Hydrogen Peroxide and Liquid Oxygen which are more environmentally friendly in sourcing, storage and combustion.

At present, companies can test extremely small engines in the UK but have to go overseas to test bigger engines. The new facility will tackle this issue and help grow the UK’s status as a leading space player, giving industry resources that allow us to grow our technological edge.

Designed to support the growth of brand-new space technologies, the government is backing the new facility, dubbed the National Space Propulsion Test Facility (NSPTF), to the tune of £4 million in funding.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “The UK’s space industry is booming as we invest in our brightest space scientists, the facilities they work in and the technologies they are creating. Backed by a £4 million government investment, this pioneering UK-based facility will elevate our most ambitious space businesses, enabling them to undertake complex spacecraft engine testing, while boosting the local economy by creating highly skilled jobs.”

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