Hoist UK partners with Lockheed Martin Space UK

25 May 2022

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Hoist UK has partnered with aerospace and defence company Lockheed Martin to create a bespoke lifting and handling solution for processing within a Satellite Integration Laboratory (SIL) in Harwell, Oxfordshire for the UK’s vertical launch space programme.

This innovative collaboration has resulted in the lifting and manoeuvring of a small spacecraft in a final stage condition before heading to launch from UK soils.

“Working on bespoke and unique lifting projects like this alongside leading world class companies such as Lockheed Martin gives me great pride and shows that the UK is open and that we are able to design and build real life engineering solutions, when commercially off-the-shelf equipment is not suitable for the application of the customer,” said Paul Jordan, technical director, Hoist UK. 

But the project did not come without its challenges. Lockheed Martin Space UK needed a versatile and portable crane to lift spacecraft and supporting equipment through a concept of operations within the tight constraints of the facility.  

Due to the limited height access routes into the cleanrooms and the need for operation in different cleanrooms of the SIL, it was a challenge for the in-house design and engineering team and it had to design technology which could move with the load and adjust the crane to different height constraints of the facility in a safe and efficient way.  

The result was a bespoke gantry structure featuring a purpose build control solution.

The modular and adjustable design approach used for the gantry structure allowed it to be moved through the facility passing through double doorways to be operated in different cleanroom environments within the facility.

“It was great working with Hoist UK to develop this solution to enable us to move spacecraft and its supporting equipment,” said Barry Watson, senior ground systems engineer, Lockheed Martin Space UK.

“The gantry crane is an essential piece of ground support equipment used at the Harwell SIL which processes the SL-OMV as part of the UK’s first vertical launch programme, known as Pathfinder.

“It is simple to use, has good control and is easily configured to changing operational requirements.” This project is important for Lockheed Martin which is active in the UK’s space sector. The company is currently in partnership with the UK Space Agency and SaxaVord Space Port in the Shetlands, to conduct northern Europe’s first vertical satellite launch.

The company is also a founding member of the UK’s new national space team, Athena, which includes Serco, Inmarsat and CGI UK, who each are world leaders in providing technology and services across defence, space, communications and information technology to governments, businesses, and other organisations.