UK tests ‘Space Tug’ capable of refiring its engine several times in orbit, and collecting space junk – TechCrunch


U.K. space tech startup Skyrora is currently the only private company capable of launching rockets from U.K. soil. On Christmas Eve at its testing facility in Fife, Scotland, the team performed a third-stage static fire engine test onboard a new vehicle that will ultimately carry satellites to their final destination. But what’s more interesting is that the vehicle can refire its engine several times in orbit and conduct multiple missions in a single trip. This makes it a “Space Tug” able to perform a number of maneuvers in space, including the extraction of space junk or maintenance if satellites are already in orbit.

Skyrora went through one of the early Space Camp accelerator programmes from Seraphim Capital.

The Space Tug is the first “mission ready” vehicle of its kind to be developed in the U.K., and once in orbit it can navigate to any location under its own power, with the ability to make multiple stops, etc.

The Space Tug is powered by a 3D-printed 3.5kN engine and the first stage of is launch is fuelled using an eco-friendly fuel (Ecosene) made in part from waste plastics.

Volodymyr Levykin, CEO of Skyrora, commented: “We have been deliberately quiet about this aspect of our Skyrora XL launch vehicle as we had huge technical challenges to get it to this stage and we wanted to ensure all tests had a satisfactory outcome, which they now have. With the current climate and a real shortage of good news, we feel it is the right time to share this with the world… We aim not only to conduct efficient launches from U.K. soil in the most environmentally friendly way, but then also to ensure that each single launch mission has the possibility of conducting the level of work that would have historically taken multiple launches.”

Sir Tim Peake, astronaut, commented: “It’s fantastic that companies such as Skyrora are persisting in their ambition to make the U.K. a ‘launch state’. By driving forward and constantly investing into their engineering capabilities, the U.K. continues to benefit from these impressive milestones achieved. In undertaking a full fire test of their third stage, which fulfils the function of an Orbital Manoeuvring Vehicle capable of delivering satellites into precision orbits, Skyrora is one step closer to launch readiness. This vehicle will also be able to perform vital services such as satellite removal, refuelling and replacement and debris removal from orbit.”



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