UK Rocket Launches: What to Expect In the Coming Years

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The UK has a long history of developing cutting-edge space technology. For over 50 years, the island nation has built rockets and sent satellites into space. The most famous example, the Black Arrow carrier, was launched from Australia in 1971. It took a satellite called Prospero into orbit, and to this day, this spacecraft is circling the globe (although it stopped giving out a signal in 2004).

But let’s jump to our year 2021. The UK is again taking steps towards establishing itself as the leading country in the space-access industry. Spaceports in Wales, Scotland, and Cornwall, will be fully operational by 2022. These are remarkable developments. It will be the first time when a UK rocket launch will set off from UK grounds. So Great Britain can finally start establishing itself as a rocket launching country. And if you want to be a witness to these events, it’s vital to stay up to date with everything that’s coming. Here’s our quick overview of the UK space plans for the coming years to keep you informed. Let’s get started.

UK Rocket Launch – Will We See It by 2022?

Although the government has been the primary source of funding for spaceports and rocket-builders, the race to cosmos gets led by private entrepreneurs. They are all competing to be the first ones to launch a rocket off British soil. And since the first spaceflight licenses are already getting issued this summer, the race is on. Everybody expects the first rocket launches to take place already in 2022.

Using Completely New Approaches

Thanks to the competitive nature of the private UK space industry, we can expect to see new technologies in action that weren’t present during the Cold War times. For example, did you know that 3D printing in spacecraft engineering is now possible? A 3MT engine for a sub-orbit spacecraft’s engine got built using only additive manufacturing.

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Not only does it enable faster production of more engines, but it also gives the space crew a chance to produce spare parts when needed. That increases the safety and success rate of space missions.

Another future technology with the potential to change the nature of all subsequent rocket launches is the air-breathing engine. A traditional vertically launched rocket needs to consume copious amounts of fuel and oxygen to take off. But just like the name says, the air-breathing engine takes the oxygen right from the atmosphere. That means the rocket engine is lighter, can get reused, and launches into space horizontally, not vertically. So the commercial spaceflight will be similar to a consumer’s experience in the aerospace industry. The flights will be frequent, the launches smooth, and the prices affordable.

UK Will Be the First European Rocket Launching Country

The UK’s space ambitions have placed the country on a route to become the first European state to send satellites into orbit. The spaceflight program got started in 2017, and all the established spaceports are still working and testing various pieces of equipment. At the moment, it looks like the Cornwall spaceport will get ready first. Located in the southernmost tip of Great Britain, this sunny and picturesque location attracts thousands of tourists every year. And now, there’s even more reason to visit the rugged cliffs. If everything goes well, people can soon come to observe the spectacular rocket launches. The space vehicles would take off from the Newquay’s airport, and visitors can marvel at the launches from the sandy beaches of the Atlantic coast.

Southerland’s Spaceport Still Faces Some Legal Challenges

The space hub in Southerland, north of Scotland, had to halt the development process because the neighboring estate owner raised environmental concerns. Right now, experts can only inspect the bedrock and soil of the location to see if it holds up for the 10+ launches per year. The rocket that’s supposed to get launched from Southerland’s spaceport is, by the way, environmentally friendly. It uses renewable bio-propane fuel which has 90% fewer carbon emissions than regular fuel. So let’s hope the legal hurdles get overcome soon and the construction of the launchpad complex and control center can continue.

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Wales Is Developing a Mobile Launch Service

The spaceport that’s developed in Port Talbot, Wales, is not intended to stay there. It will be a mobile launch complex built in a 34,000 ton repurposed bulk carrier. You can transport it anywhere in the world. The ship will also host facilities where engineers and technicians can make preparations for the take-off. The cool thing about this moving launch complex is that it causes zero harm to the environment and doesn’t require digging up the land.

The Dawn of a New Era

So this was our quick overview of the future space technology developed in the UK. The bottom line is this: we are at the brink of a new era of commercial spaceflight. And the UK is leading the innovations with its spaceports and new launching technologies. We can expect landmark space events in the coming decades, and who knows, maybe in 2040, we can already spend our holidays on Mars. Are you ready for it?

What else would you like to know about the upcoming UK rocket launches? Let us know what interests you the most in the comments.