RAL Space to contribute to new UK National Space Propulsion Facility
19 Jul 2016



STFC RAL Space have confirmed that they will be supporting the UK Space Agency with the operations of the new National Propulsion Test Facility.

​​​​An aerial view of Westcott Venture Park

​​An aerial view of Westcott Venture Park

(Credit: Westcott Venture Park)

The UK Space Agency is investing £4.12m in a National Propulsion Test Facility, giving the UK a new facility for space technology testing.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) RAL Space team will be acting as an independent broker for booking test slots and overseeing the testing schedule to ensure that it is carried out fairly among users of the National Propulsion Test Facility at Westcott in Buckinghamshire. RAL Space will also have a seat on the National Propulsion Test Facility Board.

In addition RAL Space will be providing business development support to promote the activities of the National Propulsion Test Facility and also providing a level of assurance to UKSA that the operations of the National Facility are carried out to the appropriate standards, both from a quality and a safety aspect.

Dr Christopher Mutlow, Director of RAL Space at STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, welcomed the announcement and said:

"The management and business development of Westcott provides a great opportunity for STFC RAL Space to work with the UK Space Agency, ESA and industry, applying our established expertise in developing and managing key space facilities to benefit the UK and European space communities"

The UK Space Agency investment will add new capabilities for the UK space sector. Government funding will:

  • 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 2kN
  • upgrade an existing industry owned test chamber to improve capabilities in the 25N thrust range
  • open the facilities, alongside a smaller 1N thruster test chamber at the site, for the community to use

In addition to support from STFC’s RAL Space 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.

This investment builds on what is already a world-class UK space propulsion sector. This new capability will allow cost-effective development and testing of ever more impressive engines for interplanetary travel, as well as for the significant commercial telecommunications satellite market.

With the facility investment from the UK Space Agency, who will also chair the Steering Board for this national facility, and with STFC’s RAL Space team bringing experience of test facility management to the project, this is an excellent example of UK cross-government, industry and ESA collaboration which will benefit the immediate stakeholders involved in the project, as well as the wider propulsion community by opening access to the facility.

Media contact

Sarah Smart
Head of Communications
RAL Space
Tel: 01235 445742
Mob: 07837 634683

Notes to editor

RAL Space (link opens in a new window), based at STFC's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, carries out an exciting range of world-class space research and technology development. It has had significant involvement in over 200 space missions and is at the forefront of UK Space Research.


For more information please contact: RAL Space Enquiries