The UK Space Agency is investing GBP£4.12 million in a National Propulsion Test Facility at the Westcott centre in Buckinghamshire. In truth this is not a new centre but really a refurbishment of a long standing test centre used by private companies such as Moog (for its Leros 1B and other engines) and Airborne Engineering for its own and Reaction Engine Limited-related rocket engine research. The new funding will however:
- create a new vacuum facility at the Westcott propulsion test site. When used together with the existing industry owned rocket firing test cells, this will allow the simulation of high altitude testing of thrusters up to 2 kN
- upgrade an existing industry owned test chamber to improve capabilities in the 25 N thrust range
- open the facilities, alongside a smaller 1 N thruster test chamber at the site, for the community to use
The UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), through its RAL Space facility will act as an independent broker for facility access. The European Space Agency (ESA) will be advising and overseeing the initial detailed design phase before a review in the autumn to move to full implementation.