Training centre takes off following major investment

27/03/23 | Sector/Industry News, Tenant News

A company dedicated to training students and staff involved in the space industry is going from strength to strength after opening a new facility.

European Astrotech, which provides engineering, technical and advisory support to the space propulsion industry, has trained more than 300 individuals at the Centre of Excellence for Rocket Engine Flow Test at Westcott Venture Park in the last year following £740,000 of Getting Building Fund investment via the Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

Managing Director Chris Smith said: “The response to the new centre has exceeded all expectations in terms of the throughput and the feedback we’ve received – there has been far more demand for training services than we had anticipated.

“It is not just about educating students but developing staff from organisations and companies across the space industry.”

Organisations using the state-of-the-art facility, with collaboration from SiC4E, the Space Industry Centre for Excellence include:

  • The Civil Aviation Authoritywhich provided background training in rocket launch operations as they continue to licence space ports in the UK.
  • Thales saw staff trained in hazardous operations including pressurisation operations on space craft, ground support equipment and propulsion system components while
  • A group from Surrey Satellite Technology(SSTL) was given peroxide training.

About 250 students have also been trained including a group from Kingston University who were given a five module series of lectures on propulsion test and safety, with a similar course delivered to 60 graduates on behalf of the UK Space Agency.

They learnt about propulsion system components, design and best practice in test operations, as well as associated pitfalls and hazards.

European Astrotech also helped students from the MACH-22 rocketry competition in Argyll, Scotland and will be involved in the MACH-23 competition this year.

The company also expects numbers using the facility to increase in its second year with the University of Southampton expressing an interest along with up to 10 PhD students from R2T2, an amalgamation of universities providing space training including Glasgow, Kingston, Sheffield and Cranfield.

For the latter a proposal for a distributed research, training, and teaching activity in the field of rocket propulsion is under consideration. This will be an annual contract. 

The Race2Space rocketry competition will also take place at European Astrotech’s B Site. This is a UK Space Agency endorsed initiative which will involve other Westcott-based rocket companies including Protolaunch and Airborne Engineering

Part of the funding has also been used to upgrade B Site at Westcott which will allow projects such as the collaboration with the Satellite Applications Catapult on the Bucks LEP Westcott Incubator and Accelerator Programme, with a rocket engine being designed and 3D printed specifically for students. 

Chris added: “When we do the hazardous work with students we will also have an engine they can fire up and look at its behaviour. It will broaden the hazardous training programme. 

Richard Harrington, Chief Executive of the of Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is another example of how Bucks LEP investments continue to deliver transformative growth.

“Space is a frontier industry breaking into new realms, so we need to develop a complementary set of skills and operational practices, including experiential learning, that support this innovation. 

“This is why we found European Astrotech’s approach so relevant and why we consider that it draws new capability and capacity to the Enterprise Zone at Westcott.  This will in turn help grow both safe practice and the UK Space community overall.”

In total, the Getting Building Fund leveraged more than £14.5m of private match funding, resulting in a total capital investment of £22.5m.        

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