Our goal is to develop innovative space launch solutions and their supporting technology to provide an independent launch capability serving existing and emerging global markets.
Newton recognises that step change in any industry is only possible through innovation, something that the UK has excelled in since the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution. Traditional satellite launch systems have changed little in 60 years, largely due to inertia within the global aerospace industry, but this conservatism is now being challenged by new entrants to the launch market. Newton believes that innovation will be the key to the successful emergence of the UK as a spacefaring nation. By applying 21st century technology and manufacturing methods to space launch, Newton intends to be a pioneer in this new era.
Newton believes that any commercial space launch business has to be governed by the demands and constraints of the satellite launch market. Consequently, much of Newton's effort to date has been expended on developing a deeper understanding of the market with a view to designing the vehicle to suit market needs. Market research undertaken by Newton indicates that the market for small satellite launch from the UK is significantly smaller than many potential launch service providers claim, limiting the prospect of achieving cost savings through economies of scale. Newton recognises that a small satellite launcher will not likey be able to compete against larger vehicles on price, so the emphasis needs to be on the provision of a higher quality service and responsive experience to customers, including the capability to launch within 48 hours in almost all weather conditions.
While sharing the desire to launch from the UK, Newton accepts that vertical launch from this crowded island is challenging due to its restrictive geography and unfavourable weather. Rather than joining the crowded field of proposed launchers in the north of Scotland, Newton is focused on the development of an air launched system to be built, tested and operated from the Snowdonia Aerospace Centre at Llanbedr. The proposed system is safer and cleaner than traditional launchers enabling north Wales to enjoy the benefits of a spaceport without the risks and environmental consequences of a vertical launch range.
Newton is following an incremental development programme, whereby steady progress can be made towards the ultimate goal on a component level, seeking to exploit this technology commercially - Newton is already developing its own rocket engines as part of this. Similarly, Newton intends to benefit financially from spin-off service activities such as the provision of testing services, including ground testing of components and systems, flight research and testing and near-space sub-orbital launch, using Newton's own test and evaluation hardware.
Newton believes that it is in the national interest for the UK to develop its own launcher technology rather than relying heavily on imported components and systems. Not only does our approach provide security of supply but it also encourages the development of key engineering skills. In this respect, Newton is proud to support Aspirespace in its quest to develop a new generation of aerospace engineers. Newton’s proposed production route envisages a high degree of vertical integration with most of the launcher’s systems, including propulsion, developed and tested in-house. Where components need to be bought-in, Newton is keen to work with manufacturers in the UK, and particularly in north Wales, in order to ensure that the economic benefits from the venture are maximised.
Newton has been actively engaged in driving government space access policy since before such a policy existed. In March 2012 it organised and chaired a workshop hosted by the UK Space Agency to bring together key industry players and address the UK's strategic priorities in line with the recommendations from the Space Innovation and Growth Strategy report and access to space roadmaps. This led to the Space-CITI 'Small launcher' study in which Newton partnered with SSTL, Reaction Engines and London Economics to address the technical and commercial feasibility for a UK-based launcher in greater detail. Since then the political landscape for UK space launch has changed beyond recognition, but Newton continues to champion the case for an indigenous launcher using UK-developed technology.
Throughout its existence, Newton has placed market characterisation on an equal footing with 'rocket science' and has undertaken several in-depth studies into the size and nature of the small satellite launch market. By scratching below the surface, Newton has discovered that the reality of the market is less rosy and certainly far more complex than the headlines suggest with prospective small satellite launch businesses having to carve out a niche for themselves rather than naively following a 'build and they will come' approach. Recently, one of our Directors has undertaken an 'agent based model' simulation of the market as part of a study for the British Interplanetary society. It is believed that this is the first time that such methodology has been applied to the satellite launch market.
In parallel to the commercial feasibility activity, Newton is committed to developing innovative space launch technology and has an active technology development programme. Current activity is focused on propulsion, including the development of an innovative hybrid-electric turbopump and a low-cost bi-propellant engine built from conventional engineering materials. From next year, Newton hopes to begin flying a sub-scale model of the proposed re-usable first stage to test low speed aerodynamics, avionics and telemetry.
To support the technology programme, Newton is developing a test and evaluation facility at the Snowdonia Aerospace Centre in Llanbedr.
This facility will support the following activities:
- Ground testing of launcher / spacecraft components and systems (propulsion, structures, thermal and vacuum/space environment).
- Low altitude flight testing of launcher / spacecraft components and systems on UAV carrier aircraft (low speed aerodynamics, avionics and telemetry).
- High altitude testing of launcher / spacecraft components and systems on sounding rocket vehicles (high speed aerodynamics, avionics and telemetry).
- Rail launch and/or carrier launch of sub-scale concept demonstrators and flight test articles.