Full-Scale Micro-launcher Rocket
New generation of European launch vehicles will launch a new category of very small satellites into orbit.
Orbex, Forres, UK
Orbex has unveiled the first full-scale prototype of the Prime orbital space rocket on its dedicated launch pad publicly for the first time.
The unveiling of the first of a new generation of European launch vehicles — designed to launch a new category of very small satellites to orbit — represents a major step forward for the British rocket company as it prepares for the first ever vertical rocket launch to orbit from UK soil. Orbex´s Prime rocket is the first 'micro-launcher' developed in Europe to reach this stage of technical readiness.
With the first full integration of the Orbex rocket on a launch pad now complete, the company is able to enter a period of integrated testing, allowing dress rehearsals of rocket launches and the development and optimization of launch procedures. Orbex recently revealed their first test launch platform at a new test facility in Kinloss, a few miles from the company's headquarters at Forres in Moray, Scotland.
Prime is a 19-meter long, two-stage rocket powered by seven engines that is being designed and manufactured in the UK and Denmark. The six rocket engines on the first stage of the rocket will propel the vehicle through the atmosphere to an altitude of around 80 km. The single engine on the second stage of the rocket will complete the journey to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO), allowing the release of its payload of small, commercial satellites into Earth’s orbit.
Uniquely, Orbex Prime is powered by a renewable bio-fuel, bio-propane, supplied by Calor UK. This fuel allows the rocket to reduce carbon emissions significantly compared to other similarly sized rockets being developed elsewhere around the world. A study by the University of Exeter showed that a single launch of the Orbex Prime rocket will produce 96 percent lower carbon emissions than comparable space launch systems using fossil fuels. Prime is also a re-usable rocket that has been engineered to leave zero debris on Earth and in orbit.
Orbex Prime will launch from Space Hub Sutherland, a new spaceport being constructed on the North Coast of Scotland. Space Hub Sutherland was the first vertical spaceport to receive planning permission in the UK and will be the first European spaceport brought into operation later in 2022. It is also the first and only spaceport worldwide that has committed to being carbon-neutral, both in its construction and operation.
“We are on the cusp of an historic moment, with Orbex playing a leading role in generating a brand new launch capability in the UK, while creating opportunities for people and businesses across the country," said Ian Annett, Deputy CEO of the UK Space Agency. "I can’t wait to see Prime lift off from Space Hub Sutherland.”
The market for small satellites is increasing rapidly, as a wide range of new small satellite constellations are developed and deployed. Micro-launchers such as Orbex Prime give satellite manufacturers a dedicated launch service, in contrast to larger, ‘rideshare’ launchers, where small satellites are often a secondary payload, and frequently face significant delays.
Orbex is a UK-based spaceflight company with headquarters, production and testing facilities in Scotland, and design and testing facilities in Denmark. Orbex staff members have professional backgrounds with NASA, ESA, Ariane and several commercial spaceflight organizations. The company is now funded by two of the UK’s largest and most active venture capital funds, BGF and Octopus Ventures, who join two of Europe’s largest venture capital funds, Heartcore Capital and the High-Tech Gründerfonds, as well as strategic investor Elecnor, parent company of Deimos Space, the UK Space Agency (UKSA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission Horizon 2020 program.
For more information, visit Orbex here .