Orbex confirms first satellites to be launched from Scotland in 2021
Orbex, a UK-based spaceflight company, revealed its Prime rocket at the opening of its new headquarters and rocket design facility in Forres in Scotland. It is the world’s biggest 3D printed rocket engine, designed to deliver small satellites into earth’s orbit.
The revealing ceremony was attended by eminent people from the UK and European space community as well as local community stakeholders.
Orbex Prime Rocket – The 3D Printed Rocket Engine
The re-engineered two-stage rocket (the stage that will transit into orbital flight after launch) is made from specially-formulated carbon fibre and aluminium composite which is extremely lightweight. It includes the world’s largest 3-D printed rocket engine. The rocket was designed by Orbex aerospace engineers with professional experience from organisations like NASA, ESA and Ariane, and other commercial spaceflight companies.
Owing to its innovative architecture and lightweight materials, the prime launchers are up to 30% lighter and 20% more efficient than any other vehicle in the small launcher category, packing more power per cubic litre than many heavy launchers. This is also due to the fact that it runs on Bio-propane fuel, a clean-burning, renewable fuel that cuts carbon emissions by 90% compared to old-fashioned hydrocarbon fuels.
The 3D printed rocket engine is a marvel in itself. It is manufactured as a single piece without any joints or assembly. It was accurately manufactured through a partnership with SLM solutions, the German manufacturer of metal 3D printers.
Given the extreme temperature and pressure fluctuations involved in space flight, this gives the engine an advantage over other rocket engines, which can suffer from weaknesses associated with joining and welding.
The 3D printed rocket engine will take its maiden flight from Scotland in 2021. The rocket will carry an experimental payload from UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL), the world’s leading manufacturer of small satellites. This will also be a first for the UK commercial space industry, demonstrating the UK’s end-to-end launch capability with a UK rocket launching a UK satellite from a UK spaceport.
Orbex will also launch multiple nanosatellites for Swiss-based Astrocast SA, for the development of a planet-wide Internet of Things (IoT) network. One of Orbex’s strategic investor Elecnor Deimos will also take help from Orbex to launch around twenty satellite.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, Business Secretary Greg Clark said, “The plans for a spaceport in Sutherland have already attracted significant investment, and Orbex’s rocket design facility will bring more than 100 new jobs to the Scottish Highlands region – this is our modern Industrial Strategy in action. The space sector is a great British success story and we are working closely with industry to ensure we thrive in the commercial space age. New innovations, capabilities and expertise are driving significant growth, with the sector generating close to £15 billion in income each year.”
According to Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of UK Space Agency said, “Orbex’s new rocket design facility brings Britain one step closer to having its own domestic commercial launch capability and firmly positions the UK as Europe’s frontrunner for those looking to Earth’s orbit and beyond for new opportunities. The new facility and future spaceport operations will help unlock vast economic and societal benefits not just in Scotland but right across the UK.”
Orbex CEO Chris Larmour expressed his excitement by saying, “Since the announcement in July 2018 that we had been chosen to launch from the Sutherland spaceport, Orbex has been on an incredible journey, largely behind-the-scenes. That is changing today, as we publicly reveal the company’s technical and commercial momentum. Not only do we have a full engineering prototype of the complete Stage 2 of the Prime rocket, but also a growing roster of customers hoping to be among the first to launch satellites from Scotland.”
Chris Larmour continued, “Today Orbex has taken some big strides forward, creating something unique in Europe – a well-funded, private micro-launch solution supported by excellent facilities, strong industrial partners and an expanding line-up of commercial customers. There are only a handful of private launcher companies globally that have practical experience in the design and production of micro-launch vehicles, and even fewer that have combined those skills with sufficient funding and the commercial contracts to execute on their plans. We are looking forward to the next steps in our development from our new home in Scotland.”
About Orbex: Orbex is a UK-based spaceflight company, with subsidiaries and production facilities in Denmark and Germany. The company is constructing a completely re-thought and re-designed orbital launch vehicle, called Prime, to deliver small satellites into Earth’s orbit.
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