The project, coined FSPLUK, aims to define an initial commercially viable launch system able to be brought to service by 2020 leading to a fully re-usable system for services to start in 2030. The project focusses on horizontal take-off launch systems to exploit the UK’s forthcoming spaceport. The FSPLUK project team led by Orbital Access comprises BAE SYSTEMS, Reaction Engines, Fluid Gravity Engineering, the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde, Surrey Satellite Technologies, Clyde Space and the STFC.
Explaining the project Orbital Access CEO Stuart McIntyre said: “ The UK possesses world leading aerospace design capabilities, the world’s leading future space propulsion technology and some of the most advanced space launch technology institutes. The project integrates these capabilities under Orbital Access’s commercial launch systems and services activity and with the needs and requirements of the UK’s leading small satellite manufacturers at the fore. The consortium therefore brings together the commercial and technical capabilities necessary to define commercially viable and technically effective systems. An important additional aspect of the project is to evaluate initial air test vehicles for the scalable SABRE engine technology and to establish how an effective, small commercial launch capability can be derived from these. This way we start to define the practical technical roadmap that will highlight potential near term launcher options, and ultimately lead into fully reusable vehicles such as Skylon.” Speaking on behalf of BAE Systems Regional Aircraft, Managing Director Sean McGovern said: “ It is a natural next evolution for the UK aero design industry to start to focus on trans-atmospheric craft and integrating next generation propulsion systems and associated control systems into effective single stage to orbit vehicles. We are blessed with deep expertise in the UK industry and academia to resolve the many practical challenges associated with this.” Dr Nick Cox, Head of Space Technology Strategy said: “An important element in meeting the UK Space Agency’s strategic space sector growth objectives is the establishment of effective space launch capabilities to meet the needs of the UK’s indigenous payload designers and satellite industry. We are working to establish the UK as a primary commercial location for launch services to serve the global space industry. An important part of this will be to fully engage expertise and heritage of the UK’s aerospace sector, very clearly evidenced in consortia such as this, to define our roadmap for the systems that will be pivotal in achieving this. We see in the FSPLUK consortium all the primary ingredients necessary to define this and we look forward to monitoring the progress of the study and receiving its recommendations.” The FSPLUK project will report in late autumn 2016.