The space industry in the UK is nearing its most momentous milestone as the legislation for launch and work on the first launch pads are both likely to start taking shape next month. So, while parliament is in recess pending a General Election in December after which the legislation will be hammered out, we take a look at some of the companies and people involved in the space industry.
Orbex Space, with the support of Lockheed Martin appeared out of nowhere to secure a leading position in a bid to launch from A’Mhoine in Sutherland, led by Kristian Von Bengtson and Chris Larmour. Very little is known about Mr. Larmour, but Kristian Von Bengtson has had an interesting journey.
Orbex have their roots firmly in Denmark where Von Bengtson started up amateur rocket group, Copenhagen Suborbitals with business partner, Peter Madsen back in 2008. The couple built a number of vehicles through crowd funding and managed to recruit a significant number of volunteers to the group.
According to the wikipedia entry for Copenhagen Suborbitals, they have launched five rockets to date successfully.
Both Peter Madsen and Kristian Von Bengtson left the group in 2014. Three years later Madsen was convicted of murder when he killed journalist Kim Wall in his “home built submarine”.
Von Bengtson continued his interest in space when he joined the controversial Mars One project in 2014.
Mars One aimed to send a group of individuals to Mars with the intention of colonising the planet. Companies such as Lockheed Martin, SpaceX and Surrey Satellite Technologies were brought in to the project to provide various vehicles and technology.
Through crowdfunding the project was said to have raised tens of millions of dollars until it eventually went bankrupt in January 2019. It remains unclear what the funds were spent on as the company did not manufacture any hardware or infrastructure.
Kristian Von Bengtson has been frequently associated with crowdfunded space projects. A space capsule was successfully funded on Indiegogo in 2013, with youtube videos from the Copenhagen Suborbitals group showing that the project did reach production and both Von Bengtson and Peter Madsen appeared in at least one video together in 2014.
According to the press release announcing his Mars One appointment, Von Bengtson had at that point received 15 grants to fund his work with manned spaceflight.
Von Bengtson then went on to start another crowdfunder on the kickstarter platform attempting to raise £600,000 to send a rocket to the moon. The crowdfunder failed to reach its target and came to grinding halt at just over £78,000.
In an article published in wired.com, Kristian Von Bengtson made it clear that he would continue to seek private funding for his project as he was against using tax payers money.
Fast forward to 2016 and Moonspike Ltd. is renamed to Orbital Express Launch Limited (aka Orbex) and Von Bengtson’s vast experience in raising funding is deployed to access the huge amounts being doled out by government space projects. And he keeps true to this word that he wouldn’t expect the Danish taxpayers to fund his projects, however he does set his sights on the British taxpayer and very quickly realises the generosity of the UK Space Agency raising several million in a bid to launch small satellites into orbit.
Somehow managing to team up with Lockheed Martin and a Spanish company, Deimos, to secure the bulk of the UK Space Agency budget for a spaceport in the A’Mhoine peninsula in the Sutherland region of the Scottish Highlands, Orbex has also gone on to secure some private funding.
The Sutherland space port is currently going through the planning stages and is likely to require further funding to bring the project to fruition as funds will be absorbed by the many consultants and professionals working on the detailed planning stages.
Von Bengtson remains very much behind the scenes of the Sutherland spaceport project, although he likely has a significant role in the fundraising aspect of the business.