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Business / Scatsta Airport turns into base for rocket engine testing

Engine testing at Scatsta in May last year.

GERMAN rocket maker HyImpulse Technologies has successfully carried out a series of engine tests at Scatsta Airport, bringing a taste of the space industry to Shetland.

The company was quick to praise companies in the local supply chain involved in the work, which was hosted by Shetland Space Centre at the former airfield.

It is expected to culminate in the launch of a sounding rocket from Unst later this year.

HyImpulse Co-CEO Mario Kobald said: ”We have run a series of different short and long tests on our hybrid motor to qualify it for the first launch of our sounding rocket, and are pleased to say that they have worked well. This follows a first round of testing in Germany.

”We are using solid fuel, basically candlewax, that is easy to handle and really cheap, with a further major advantage that there can be no hazardous accidents during shipping and prior to testing and operations.

”Only during the testing itself did we introduce a liquid oxidiser and heat to make the motor fire. This has been a big step forward in proving that the technology is working.”

He praised the support of local companies Ocean Kinetics, Streamline, Shetland Power Tools and Nordri.

The company plans to carry out further engine testing in July, and proposes to launch a sounding rocket in the autumn.

Shetland Space Centre CEO Frank Strang said: ”It has been a tremendously exciting two weeks at Scatsta, with the first rocket engine testing marking a major milestone in the development of the space industry in Shetland.

”There is lots more to come, from HyImpulse and our other partners including Lockheed Martin, ahead of the first planned vertical rocket launch from Unst next year.

”Congratulations both to Mario and his team for their successes and a massive thanks to Shetland Islands Council and the local companies who have supported this operation. The can-do attitude and teamwork on display bode well for Shetland’s future as the home of UK launch.”

Ocean Kinetics managing director John Henderson added: “We fabricated the main support frame for testing the rocket, which included a load-bearing support structure for the rocket engine, nozzle support, and also the stainless steel cryogenic fuel and purge pipework for supplying the rocket engine.

”We placed and secured the engine into its test location and carried out site services including inspection and testing of the pipework.

“The space economy is a fascinating one, and certainly an area for which our services are particularly suited, and we very much look forward to being involved in it, as it evolves.”

Will Rodger, operations supervisor for Streamline, said: “We look forward to supporting the team and project further with our services both in Shetland and Europe/Worldwide.

“This is a great example of how Streamline work collaboratively with many partners to ensure goods are shipped on schedule to meet customer requirements.”