Companies in Space: Orbex Space3rd Feb 2021
Danish aerospace company Orbex Space was founded in 2015. Their main goal is to develop and install rocket engines, offering services for launching small satellites and CubeSats into near-Earth orbits.
In addition to their headquarters in Moray, Scotland, the company has a production facility in Denmark, where the company originated. Additionally, they plan to build and manufacture in Scotland as well as producing their own launch vehicles in the near future. Orbex staff has experience working closely with NASA, ESA as well as several other large space organizations. Over the last four years, the amount of funding which has been invested in this company has exceeded £40 million. The ESA, UK Space Agency, as well as venture capital funds and private investors, are supporting Orbex in their ventures.
Orbex Prime – starting the era of environmental launches
Currently, the Orbex team is developing its own Prime launcher, which should be launched from a new launch site in Sutherland. Aside from Orbex Prime, another ultralight vehicle — Electron owned by private American company, RocketLab, was expected to launch from the same spaceport. The latter has been successfully launched several times since 2018. However, the final planning application for Sutherland Spaceport included only one launch pad and couldn’t facilitate RocketLab.
Prime and Electron will have different launch sites, as they run on different types of fuel which requires very different infrastructure. The American vehicle operates on a combination of “kerosene and liquid oxygen,” while Orbex came up with an innovative non-toxic propane-based fuel for their Prime vehicle. However for the rest of the vehicle, Prime is very similar in many ways to Electron. The launch vehicle’s compact dimensions allow 150kg of payload to be launched into Low Earth Orbit.
The first launch in 2021 and future partnerships
In addition, Orbex Space says that their rocket will have a returnable first stage. This means that the vehicle will be reusable, which therefore will reduce the cost of each new launch. As a reminder, today, delivering 1 kg of cargo by light launch vehicles costs $10 thousand, on average. The first Prime flight, according to preliminary estimates, should take place in 2021.
Orbex Space has already announced they have signed an agreement with a satellite manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., a subsidiary of the University of Surrey. This company is a part of the world’s largest space corporation Airbus Defence and Space. Besides, Orbex Space has signed a long-term contract with EKA.
According to Miguel Mora, the head of Elecnor Deimos, Europe’s largest satellite systems developer and another strategic partner of Orbex Space, this new company is ahead of its own capabilities when it comes to small satellite launches. Shortly, Orbex Space may take a leading position in this sphere, offering not only functional and cost-effective solutions, but also environmentally-friendly strategies.