ESA-led space propulsion test facility passed to UK owner

Enabling & Support


The UK’s new National Space Propulsion Facility has been declared open. ESA oversaw the design, meeting and commissioning of the facility – outfitted to test-fire probably the most highly effective lessons of rocket engines used aboard spacecraft.ESA’s General Support Technology Programme (GSTP) has invested round €4,500 000 within the design, improvement and constructing of the National Space Propulsion Facility, in collaboration with the UK Space Agency and UK industrial companions together with rocket producer and facility contractor Nammo UK. The facility might be managed by the UK Government’s Science and Technology Facilities Council.

UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway formally opened the National Space Propulsion Facility, which is predicated at Westcott Venture Park in Buckinghamshire, a historic centre for UK rocketry.The Minister declared: “As we build back better we are investing in our brightest space scientists, the facilities they work in and the technologies they are creating. This pioneering facility will support our ambitious space businesses, enabling them to undertake complex spacecraft engine testing, while boosting the local economy by creating highly skilled jobs.”

Maintaining vacuum
A rocket is required to launch a mission up into space, however satellites in orbit and spacecraft headed to different components of the Solar System are outfitted with smaller onboard rocket engines of their very own, important to let missions carry out manoeuvres in space, controlling their very own orientation and course.“The new facility’s thruster test cell can perform test-firings of the largest class of satellite engines, delivering up to 1300 Newtons of thrust,” remarked Mark Ford, Head of ESA’s Propulsion Engineering part. “It will serve as the gold standard for testing of the biggest, mission-enabling thrusters to come, including the new ESA-supported High Thrust Apogee Engine, designed for future exploration missions, as well as numerous commercial projects.”

UK National Space Propulsion Test Facility
The facility’s thruster test cell possesses three modes of operation: equal sea degree strain, medium 20 km altitude equal strain and excessive altitude of round 40 km top equal strain.But it takes intelligent engineering to enable the sustained firing of rocket engines right into a sealed-off chamber that’s simulating space. Powerful mechanical pumps function constantly to keep vacuum situations. They take away the new, supersonic exhaust plume from the rocket engine  after it’s subtle and cooled. This prevents it venting into the encompassing ambiance in a loud, explosive method.

Facility prepared for work
A high-performance warmth exchanger is used to quickly scale back the temperature of those gases down from 2000°C down to 50°C. Supplied by Reaction Engines, this warmth exchanger represents an early industrial know-how spin-off from the SABRE air-breathing rocket engine, which is being developed by the corporate with ESA help, with a test web site taking form elsewhere on the Westcott Venture Park.

About GTSPThrough the non-compulsory GSTP, Participating States and Industry work collectively to convert promising engineering ideas right into a broad spectrum of useable merchandise for space and the open market.The long-running GSTP is well known as key a programme for constructing knowhow and capabilities within the space sector, serving to to guarantee European competitiveness within the international market, creating jobs and preserving Europe on the forefront of technological innovation.

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