Newton Launch Systems was established in 2011 to investigate the feasibility of the UK developing its own small satellite launcher in response to the growth in the small satellite market. 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. This study concluded that there was indeed a market for a UK small satellite launcher, but the trading conditions were likely to be difficult with fewer than half a dozen launches per annum forecast. Furthermore, since costs do not scale linearly with vehicle size, significant innovation would be needed to reduce development, production and operations costs to a point where private investment could be sought.
Over the past 5 years Newton has focused on its technology development programme in parallel with its on-going market study activity. Current technical activity is centred on the propulsion system, including the development of an innovative hybrid-electric turbopump and a low-cost bi-propellant engine. To support the technology programme, Newton is developing a test and evaluation facility at Spaceport Snowdonia in Llanbedr, Gwynedd, including a test stand for static firing of rocket motors, a thermal vacuum chamber and a launch rail for flying small scale boost glider vehicles. In addition to undertaking its own test programme, Newton intends to offer testing services to other SMEs and universities on a commercial basis.
Over the next 5 years, Newton will continue to follow an incremental development programme, whereby steady progress can be made towards the ultimate goal on a component and sub-system level, while seeking to exploit this technology as a short-term revenue stream. In the immediate future, the focus will be on testing and consultancy, including advice on R&D tax credits and software services to other SMEs, in addition to testing services at Spaceport Snowdonia. In the medium term, Newton will seek to earn revenue directly from the sale or licensing of its technology, such as the upper stage bi-propellant rocket engine currently under development.
Newton believes that it is in the national interest for the UK to develop its own launcher technology rather than relying on imported vehicles, systems and components. Not only does this 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 and looks forward to working with its partners at Spaceport Snowdonia in order to ensure that the regional and national economic benefits from the venture are maximised.
Newton Launch Systems Limited
Registered in England & Wales as Company Number 07720895
Registered office 24 The Queens Drive, Mill End, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, WD3 8LL.
VAT Number: GB305311063