3D-printed rocket completed in Loanhead

Skyrora unveils ground-breaking rocket technology and moves onto testing phase.
Skyrora unveils ground-breaking rocket technology and moves onto testing phase.

Skyrora has unveiled its newly built 3D-printed 30 kilonewton liquid bi-propellant rocket engine, completed in Midlothian.

This ground-breaking engine technology was assembled over a period of three months and was precision welded at Skyrora’s production facility in Loanhead.

The innovative engine produces three-tonnes thrust, which makes it one of the largest rocket engines ever to be developed in the UK. The new engine has been constructed using additive manufacturing techniques and advanced materials, including Inconel. The engine utilises a regenerative cooling approach and has Thrust Vector Control built-in.

The method used to 3D print the engine was completed by ‘powder bed fusion’, where a laser is used to melt and fuse the metal powder together. 3D printing was chosen by Skyrora as it increases the accuracy of the components, drastically reduces part count, decreases manufacturing complexity and reduces the cost of the engine build significantly.

Final assembly and precision tungsten inert gas welding was completed at Skyrora’s production facility in Loanhead.

The engine will be used in Skyrora’s commercial sub-orbital vehicle Skylark-L which is expected to be ready for launch this year. The company plans to start testing this engine in Scotland in the coming months.

Commenting, Dr Jack-James Marlow, engineering manager at Skyrora, said: “Completion of the engine manufacture is a key milestone for us, and allows Skyrora to proceed with hot fire testing for validation.

“Additive Layer Manufacturing was a real game-changer, as it allowed us to integrate the cooling channels into one printed chamber piece.

“At Skyrora, we are always looking to expand the impact space can have on our lives. Our vision is to make the UK a world leader in the growing space sector, unlocking the benefits of increased access to space for all.

“This development places Skyrora as a leader in the European launch vehicle market. With our plans to start testing and then launch, 2020 is going to be an exciting year for us. We can’t wait to get started.”