A Scottish space company hoping to be the first to launch the first full orbital rocket developed in the UK in 50 years has completed a test firing of its final stage module.

Skyrora, an Edinburgh company that is planning to develop a satellite launch site in the UK, tested its space tug, designed to manoeuvre satellites into orbit, on December 23.

The space tug could also be used to remove space debris or unused satellites.

Skyrora, whose advisory board includes the British astronaut Tim Peake, is developing a 70ft rocket, the Skyrora XL, which is intended for low earth orbit satellite launches from around 310 miles above earth.

Last year, it tested its Skylark Micro rocket from the UK, which fired from the coast of Shetland 16km into the air.

The December test consisted of a 450 second burn over three firings of its space tug module, the final stage of its planned XL rocket.

Skyrora’s light rockets and launch system are intended to be modular, meaning they can be disassembled and repositioned easily. Skyrora said it is hoping to benefit from increased demand for tiny, low orbit small satellites and constellations made up of thousands of internet satellites. 

Volodymyr Levykin, Skyrora chief executive, said: “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.”

Jack James Marlow, Skyrora’s head of engineering, said: “This puts us in a great position to start 2021 and expand our operations with increased manufacturing.”