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Orbex reveals first full-scale microlauncher rocket developed in Europe
British rocket company Orbex has unveiled the first full-scale prototype of the Prime orbital space rocket on its dedicated launch pad in the Highlands of Scotland.
The Prime rocket is the first ‘micro-launcher’ developed in Europe to reach this stage of technical readiness and represents a major step forward for the company as it prepares for the first ever vertical rocket launch from UK soil.
BGF invested £4.5 million in Orbex in 2020, as part of a $24 million funding round to support the company’s development from product development and early flights, into subsequent growth and production.
Chris Larmour, CEO, Orbex: “This is a major milestone for Orbex and highlights just how far along our development path we now are. From the outside, it might look like an ordinary rocket, but on the inside, Prime is unlike anything else. To deliver the performance and environmental sustainability we wanted from a 21st century rocket we had to innovate in a wide number of areas – low-carbon fuels, fully 3D-printed rocket engines, very lightweight fuel tanks, and a novel, low-mass reusability technology.”
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.
Designed and manufactured in the UK and Denmark, the 19-metre-long Prime rocket will produce 96 per cent lower carbon emissions than comparable fossil fuel launch systems and has been engineered to leave zero debris on Earth and in orbit.
Keith Barclay, investor at BGF, said: “Orbex is an incredibly exciting company which has developed a strongly differentiated and highly innovative solution for the rapidly growing small satellite market. Today’s unveiling is testament to the hard work of the entire team and we’re extremely proud to be backing one of the most compelling examples of this evolving sector, which represents a key future industry for the UK.”
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