Skyrora, the UK-based launch-vehicle manufacturer, and Spirit AeroSystems, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of aerostructures, have entered a collaborative partnership focused on expanding orbital launch capabilities by leveraging technologies such as Skyrora’s Skyprint 2, the largest in-house hybrid 3D printer of its kind in Europe. The companies celebrated the announcement on the opening day of the UK Space Conference, in Belfast, home to Spirit’s largest UK manufacturing facility.
Skyrora is developing an agile, end-to-end, launch service to provide access to space for small satellites, globally. Having conducted a test launch of the suborbital Skylark L vehicle in October 2022, as part of the company’s incremental learning approach to launch, Skyrora is on track to become the first UK company to vertically launch satellites from the UK – expecting to conduct up to 16 launches per year once operating at scale.
“This alliance is a real testament to the strides Skyrora has made and continues to make, towards our mission of being the first British company to launch from UK soil. It will allow us to renew our focus on localizing our supply chain as much as possible, which is a key part of our mission to create a responsible and sustainable approach to orbital launch,” said Volodymyr Levykin, CEO and Founder of Skyrora. “By collaborating with innovative partners like Spirit, Skyrora will be able to access manufacturing and testing capacity right here in the UK. Historically, space has not been an environmentally friendly industry, but we are committed to being a responsible player that continues to foster talent and skills nationally as the ambitious new space economy goes from strength to strength.”
Spirit AeroSystems’s presence in UK space is growing. Its broad offering of highly adaptive manufacturing and testing solutions in metallics and composites, at both its Scotland and Northern Ireland facilities, brings significant industrial capacity to Skyrora’s launch proposition. Leveraging Spirit’s aerostructures expertise, the companies will explore opportunities to transition Skyrora’s orbital launch vehicles from development to full-scale production.
“Through our support of innovative, sustainable space technologies and clusters, we can add real value to building UK launch capability. Spirit’s role will be to fully industrialize Skyrora’s future production requirements, ensuring a smooth path from development to manufacture,” said Sir Michael J Ryan CBE, Vice President of European Space and Defence at Spirit AeroSystems. “The UK Space Conference provides a fantastic platform for companies like ours to cement relationships enabling commercial success within the sector including, importantly, UK launch activity.”
The UK Government has made orbital launch a key priority, with the National Space Strategy outlining plans to secure an increased portion of a global space economy expected to be worth £490 billion by 2030. “This collaboration between Skyrora and Spirit clearly demonstrates the attractiveness of the UK’s thriving launch sector and the growing interest from both UK-based and international companies,” said Matt Archer, Director of Launch at the UK Space Agency. “Relationships such as this will not only build our domestic spaceflight capability but also help deliver Government’s ambition for the UK to be Europe’s leading provider of small satellite launch by 2030, creating highly skilled jobs and local opportunities across the UK.”
Collaborative goals also include the research of space technologies, particularly in additive manufacturing via the Skyprint 2. Located in Skyrora’s manufacturing facility just outside Glasgow, research enabled by Skyprint 2 has the potential to unlock a localized supply chain to reduce costs and lead times for Spirit, bolster industrial cooperation, and promote growth within the UK space sector.