THE largest space factory in Britain has opened and is already manufacturing rockets - due to be launched next year from Shetland.
The aerospace hub, the size of two football fields, has been opened in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, and will create 100 jobs.
Three rockets are set to be produced there by rocket firm Skyrora and work has started on two of them.
The maiden testing of the second stage of the Skyrora XL rocket can now be performed from UK soil, due to be launched from Shetland next year.
It has been fully manufactured in-house, including the assembly of the 70kN engine, the most powerful commercially produced liquid engine in the UK, which has been built using 3D-printed components.
Tests that would typically be outsourced to facilities abroad can now be conducted in Britain, saving time and money.
The space hub consists of 55,000 sq ft of factory floor and office space, along with a 67,000 sq ft yard large enough to contain the entire Skylark L launch complex, for rehearsals, integration works, and launch preparation.
It can accommodate up to 16 Skyrora XL vehicles for assembly, integration, and launch per year.
The hot fire testing will see the second stage attached to a stand at a newly opened test facility in Midlothian as the engine simulates a real launch.
As a three-stage launch vehicle, the second stage of Skyrora XL will start its engines at approximately 62km before releasing the third stage at around 190km for orbital launch.
Skyrora's Head of Engineering, Dr Jack James Marlow, said: "This purpose-built manufacturing and assembly site, combined with the Midlothian testing facility, allows Skyrora to take direct charge of the development cycle in-house.
"As a business, we now have a full set of domestic facilities to allow for close control of the quality and rapid development and testing of Skyrora XL ahead of its demo launch.
"The site will also allow us to further optimise manufacturing processes developed by our colleagues in Ukraine and scale-up launch vehicle production in the long term, enabling further expansion and growth in the future."
By 2030, Skyrora aims to conduct 16 launches per year from Saxavord launch complex in the Shetland Islands alone.
Skyrora founder and CEO Volodymyr Levykin said: "To play a significant role in the emerging global space economy, the UK has to develop sovereign launch capabilities.
"This isn't just about offering different locations for launch, but everything that precedes that moment.
"Being able to offer end-to-end domestic capabilities from development, manufacturing, testing, and launch provides the UK with a crucial advantage as it looks to unlock its capabilities and deliver on its potential on the global stage.
"This crucial asset would not have been possible without the dedication and talent of the entire Skyrora team, both here in Scotland and in Ukraine.
"We’re proud to be leading the way for the UK space sector, promoting further STEM job creation that will be vital to the UK Government’s Levelling Up agenda.
"There is an enormous commercial opportunity to be seized here, and a chance for the UK to play a key strategic role in the new space economy.
"However, in order to do this, investment is needed at the highest level of Government to support the efforts of private companies, otherwise we risk missing the chance to future-proof the British economy and letting talent slip through our fingers."
Pamela Humphries, Head of Planning and Regeneration at North Lanarkshire Council, said: "We are very pleased to welcome Skyrora to the area.
"The company operates in a very exciting and dynamic industry and is ambitious for its development, offering many opportunities for other local businesses to provide support services which can only be positive for our local economy."
Ian Annett, Deputy CEO, UK Space Agency said: "As we approach the UK’s first commercial space launch this summer, Skyrora’s new manufacturing and production facility in Cumbernauld will further enhance the UK’s reputation as Europe’s most attractive destination for launch activities.
"Scotland is home to around one-fifth of all space jobs in the UK and, by harnessing the opportunities provided by commercial spaceflight, we are creating highly skilled jobs and local opportunities in Scotland and across the country."