Providing access to specialist test facilities is a key attraction and an important part of the business incubation package for early-stage businesses.
Test facilities for rocket propulsion and related technologies
Westcott is already home to a thriving nucleus of space companies working in rocket propulsion and related areas, including: NAMMO, European Astrotech, Falcon Project, Airborne Engineering, Reaction Engines Ltd. Together these companies comprise a considerable body of engineering expertise in design, manufacture and operation of rocket engines and ground support equipment, encompassing fluid dynamics, propellant chemistry, precision engineering, materials science, rocket science, applied physics, systems development, and manufacturing engineering.
There are also hot-fire rocket test facilities on-site, including test chambers, owned and operated by NAMMO Westcott, able to characterise both monopropellant and bi-propellant attitude and reaction control thrusters in the 10N class under simulated space conditions, and larger ground (1 atmosphere) test facilities suited to rockets in the 1kN class.
The UK Space Agency, with ESA, is upgrading these facilities to allow testing of 1kN class apogee engines in a vacuum and is also upgrading the thruster test chambers to allow testing of next generation thrusters, which will require capabilities up to 25N. These facilities will together comprise a National Propulsion Test Facility.
“For the last 70 years, Westcott has been the home of UK Rocketeers. It will add further growth opportunities to the Park, create the environment for universities and industry to collaborate on high profile projects, and help to develop and grow key areas of the UK economy.”
ROCKSPRING HANOVER PROPERTY UNIT TRUST
Test facilities for 5G applications
The newly established 5G Step-out Centre, located opposite the Westcott Business Incubation Centre, will give platform and applications developers access to the latest 5G equipment without the need to invest in expensive infrastructure. This will allow them to rapidly prototype and commission new products and services under representative real-world conditions ahead of market roll-out. Organisations using the facility will benefit from the shared skills and technical support that will be assembled on the site both in terms of the 5G infrastructure and more general technical skills and facilities.
Within the broad swath of 5G capabilities, Westcott offers many advantages, particularly for the development of mobile applications. The site is ideally located in a surrounding rural area with poor terrestrial wireless coverage, allowing for testing of new infrastructure without the risk of causing interference to existing systems. The location also offers a variety of local geographical features that can be used to validate novel concepts of operation and operational technology.
“Westcott provides the perfect environment to help early-stage businesses interested in rocket propulsion, 5G communications, autonomous systems or other related activities to get off the ground. This facility reinforces the UK Government’s plans to replenish the supply chain for rocket propulsion activities in the UK and support the development of new applications that exploit the economic potential of 5G networks, drones, autonomous systems and the general space infrastructure.”
CEO, SATELLITE APPLICATIONS CATAPULT
Test facilities for drones and other autonomous systems
One of the main challenges to commercial exploitation of UAVs for beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLoS) operations is to demonstrate that they can operate safely and effectively in un-segregated airspace. The Westcott Venture Park provides a secure, controlled environment with plenty of open space within the 650-acre estate. It has a long-established health and safety and regulatory environment to support its rocket test function, which makes it ideal for testing other safety critical systems such as drones and other autonomous systems. Westcott as a former operational airfield has plenty of open space and low residential density in the immediate vicinity which makes it an ideal location for UAV specialist companies who need space to test their vehicles and sensors.
Our ambition is to make Westcott the centre for future development of UAV traffic management systems, and for real-world BVLoS applications; and, by extension, for other autonomous systems as well. Westcott will be developed into a comprehensive test centre for autonomous systems of all scales, integrating users into the development process by providing access to the latest expertise in instrumentation, communications, control systems etc alongside bespoke test set-ups. Examples would include extensive agri-tech trials under controlled field/crop conditions, using both UAVs and ground vehicles, or test rigs simulating the use of autonomous systems for tackling oil spills, or servicing pylons etc.