Green rocket company set to launch at business park near Aylesbury

A green rocket company is the latest hi-tech company to move its facilities to a business park near Aylesbury.

By James Lowson
Thursday, 4th August 2022, 11:50 am

URA Thrusters will carry out testing at the Westcott Space Cluster.

The company specialises in the use of water as fuel for rocket propulsion in space.

Staff from the team have been refurbishing the old R site at Westcott for the past nine months.

The rocket company's new base

Emily Dingle, head of Programmes and Operations, said: “Westcott gives us the space and the capacity to carry out testing safely. It provides the room we need to expand and allows us to be sustainable in line with the goals of Westcott. It also allows us to work alongside colleagues in the space sector, bouncing ideas off each other and we can grow as a company because of that.”

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URA was established in 2019 and is a spin-off company from AVS UK which designs and develops complex and critical equipment for a variety of space and science clients including Airbus and Virgin Orbit.

Emily added: “URA delivers the propulsion systems for spacecraft such as satellites using water which is a much more sustainable fuel source. We split it into parts of hydrogen and oxygen and use that to propel the spacecraft.”

URA started with three staff members, but has expanded to now employ over 20 people.

It hopes to rapidly increase that number to 150 employees in the next two years.

“Our ambition is to take URA from the R&D stage to have five propulsion test chambers, three at R site and two in the Westcott Innovation Centre. We are going to be testing our thrusters to take them to the commercial phase within 18 months,” Emily said.

The old R site now known as the TESTA facility, had not been touched for decades and had no electricity or water supply.

The test cell has been rewired, with LED lighting and security cameras installed. An R&D ‘design cave’ has also been created with the test cell connected to the main control room building via an underground tunnel. Electric vehicle charging points have also been installed.

Emily said: “URA thrusters is delighted to be moving to the Space Cluster here at Westcott. Our delivery of sustainable, water based, propulsion systems, will be enhanced by being here on site where we can test these systems alongside our innovative R&D here in the Westcott Innovation Centre.”

Project funding came from the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency while in 2021 URA won a £250,000 Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership Getting Building Fund grant towards the development of its ICE thrusters.

Another Green Building Grant for the LED lighting has been granted by the Local Enterprise Partnership while a £250 grant from the Department for Transport went towards the EV charging points.

Emily concluded: “Our company motto is very clear, we deliver sustainable propulsion systems, and our vision is to become the most sustainable Space propulsion company, and the top propulsion employer in the world. We look forward to doing that here at Westcott.”