A SCOTTISH firm aiming to become the first UK company to launch a rocket into orbit for nearly 50 years is moving closer to its goal.

In a major development in what has been dubbed the new space race, a groundbreaking 3D-printed rocket engine is nearing completion thanks to a partnership between Edinburgh-headquartered Skyrora and Hampshire-based Frazer-Nash Manufacturing.

The engine will be tested in the coming weeks at Spaceport Cornwall. It will be the first advanced liquid-fuel engine tests by a British small-satellite launcher to take place in the UK since the legendary Black Arrow programme in the 1960s.

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Frazer-Nash has used innovative techniques to create the nickel alloy “upper stage” rocket engine components that will eventually power and manoeuvre Skyrora rockets and payloads once they reach orbit.

Additive manufacturing (AM), also referred to as 3D printing, is a process of creating a three-dimensional part layer by layer. It works by adding material to create the desired shape, instead of having to remove material through methods such as machining. Skyora lead engineer Robin Hague said: “Creating this engine with Frazer-Nash is a big step forward for us – and for the UK’s new space race.

“Frazer-Nash has been instrumental in the design and manufacturing process and is helping us to create a prototype that is scalable – thanks to the advanced 3D printing technology.

“We are committed to supporting the UK space industry and so localising our supply chain has always been a priority. The completion of the manufacturing process marks a milestone in our development process.”