New satellite propulsion test facility announced for 2021
A new national rocket test facility, based in Aylesbury Vale Enterprise Zone, part of the Thames Valley, will allow UK companies and academics to test state-of-the-art space propulsion engines at up to 1.5kN in high-altitude vacuum, an equivalent test altitude of 140,000ft.
The new cutting-edge facility will be developed through the collaboration of the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency, Science and Technology Facilities Council’s RAL Space and NAMMO UK. The facility, named the National Space Propulsion Test Facility (NSPTF), will serve to boost the international reputation of the Westcott Space Cluster by providing the opportunity to test bigger engines in the UK than internationally, enhancing the UK’s innovative prospects.
The NSPTF, which is backed by £4million in Government funding, will provide the opportunity to grow space technology. The space setcor is a key attribute for the UK’s economy, having grown over 60% since 2010. The facility is expected to provide 60 jobs and give companies a more affordable testing facility in comparison to international rivals. Beyond propulsion testing, the new facility will allow testing of more sustainable propellants, aligning with the UK’s Net Zero goal.
Aylesbury Vale Enterprise Zone is a multi-site facility in a strategic position at the centre of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. The new facility will be part of the Westcott Space Cluster in Buckinghamshire, which offers a secure environment with 650-acres of open space and centres around an innovative, entrepreneurial culture with links to other high-tech centres. The facility is on Westcott Venture Park which has a strong heritage in the aerospace and space industry, with over 50 years of being a test site for rocket engines. Westcott has attracted over £30 million investment for the UK space sector.
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.”
Richard Collins, President of Buckinghamshire Chamber of Commerce, added:
“The new test facility for satellite propulsion will further strengthen Buckinghamshire’s space cluster and, with its associated creation of new jobs and investment opportunities, is excellent news for the county.”
Richard Harrington, CEO of the Buckinghamshire LEP said:
“The national rocket test facility at Westcott is a key step towards delivering a world-leading hub for the space sector in the heart of Buckinghamshire.
We are delighted to support this new facility in our Enterprise Zone, which opens up the next stage in the evolution of the Westcott site to attract new business and investment to this world-class centre of excellence in space propulsion.”
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