• Skyrora has completed an engine test for a versatile engine capable of making multiple burns per launch
  • Orbex is also racing toward space travel with a recently-approved launch site in Scotland
  • The U.K. hasn't launched a rocket since 1971 and never has on its home soil

Space startup Skyrora has completed testing on an ambitious rocket design, putting the U.K. one step closer toward its first-ever rocket launch from its home soil. With plans moving forward for a launch site in Scotland and multiple companies jockeying to be the first past the finish line, the sky seems to be the limit for the U.K.’s space industry.

Skyrora’s engine design boasts the capacity to fire its boosters multiple times, expanding its capabilities beyond simply putting one satellite into a single orbit. As a “space tug,” Skyrora’s rockets could remain aloft to perform satellite maintenance or clean up space debris before returning to Earth.

“We have been deliberately quiet about this aspect of our Skyrora XL launch vehicle as we had huge technical challenges to get it to this stage and we wanted to ensure all tests had a satisfactory outcome, which they now have,” Skyrora CEO Volodymyr Levykin told TechCrunch.

Skyrora is also clearing the way for efficient and environmentally friendly launches: The first stage of the 3D-printed engine uses a fuel called Ecosene made using waste plastics.

“It’s fantastic that companies such as Skyrora are persisting in their ambition to make the U.K. a ‘launch state,’” astronaut Sir Tim Peake told TechCrunch. “By driving forward and constantly investing into their engineering capabilities, the U.K. continues to benefit from these impressive milestones achieved.”

Skyrora’s not the only business in the U.K. eyeing the stars. Orbex hopes to use a newly-approved launch site in Scotland to achieve orbit in the coming years.

Either company would be the first to launch rockets from U.K. soil, with the U.K.’s sole rocket launch occurring in Australia in 1971.

Orbex rocket
A picture shows the new Prime Rocket unveiled by the British aerospace company Orbex at their new headquarters and rocket design facility in Forres in the Scottish Highlands on February 7, 2019. Michal Wachucik / AFP via Getty Images