in Aerospace / Defence / Security / Space / Events

WEC apprentices shoot for the stars

Posted 11 July 2017 · Add Comment

WEC Group's engineering apprentices have put their new fabrication and machining skills to the test in order to manufacture major parts for a research space rocket.



Within just four weeks, WEC Group Training Academy apprentices fabricated a rocket propulsion system and fitted the rocket’s fin brackets which were cut at the company’s in-house waterjet division.

The 8.3 metre tall Skybolt 2 rocket, created by Starchaser Industries, is set to launch later this year as a way of engaging young people and inspiring them to pursue science technology, engineering and mathematics as part of their education.

Expected to reach 4,000 feet in just 17 seconds, the carbon fibre rocket will contain and test an array of electronic instruments which could potentially be used in future flights, and will test fly a number of experiments from the University of Chester, Manchester, Leicester, Sheffield Hallam and other UK educational institutes.



The rocket boosters are now being fitted in Cheshire before coming back to WEC in two weeks’ time when the apprentices will manufacture the launch pad to prepare for lift off. This is the first time WEC has built a rocket, but the company has assisted with the manufacture of launch pads and parts before.

Steve Bennett, Starchaser CEO and Founder, said: “WEC Group’s apprentices have done a sterling job in building the assembly that holds Skybolt’s propulsion system in place, a vital piece of engineering without which this ground breaking rocket would not fly.

“Now working on parts for the guidance system, these guys are putting us another step closer to our goal of putting Britain back into space.” 

In order to manufacture the rocket propulsion system, the apprentices used advanced welding and fabrication processes including Aluminium TIG and MIG welding as well as CNC machining.

They rolled and formed the aluminium motor carrier and drilled countersunk the body, as well as machining tube to very accurate dimensions with tight tolerances. These processes will allow expansion and contraction when the rocket experiences different temperatures during the flight.

Kris Mercer, Training & Development Manager at WEC Group, said: “The apprentices are really excited and keen for the launch. The quality of work has been extremely high and we are confident the launch will be successful.

“Projects like this keep the apprentices engaged and interested in engineering.”



Flown only once on launch day, the duration of the flight will be under four minutes. There will be no danger to the public, livestock or wildlife and there will be communication with local Air Traffic Control prior to and during the rocket flight.

WEC Group Training Academy is the only apprenticeship scheme of its type in the UK, offering traditional five year apprenticeships in welding/fabrication, CNC machining and laser operating as well as recently expanding to other areas of the company including business administration.

Set up in 2006 to address the ongoing concern about the shortage of skilled engineers, over 90 apprentices have been recruited with at least 45/50 apprentices progressing through the course at any one time.

As a community centred organisation, WEC Group accept projects from the local authorities every year, free of charge, to benefit the local community. Apprentices often work on these projects as a way of enhancing their new found skills and practicing engineering in a real life environment.

Typical work has seen apprentices restore local landmarks and fabricate structures for local charities such as ramps, security fences and steelwork.

Starchaser Industries UK is a privately held, high technology group of companies that specialise in the development, operation and commercialisation of space related products and services.
 

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