Orbex Prime vs. Skyrora XL: New UK Rocket Comparison13th May 2021
Skyrora XL may soon make up for some historical wrongs in British rocket history. The only British rocket Black Arrow was launched in 1971, but it was soon sent to the dustbin of history as unprofitable. Today, half a century later, the country aims to revive the UK rocket and space industry.
In the next year or two, private companies Orbex and Skyrora promise to launch their first British rockets into space. Both UK rockets are designed to deliver small satellites to sun-synchronous and polar orbits. They have many similarities as well as significant differences. Let’s take a closer look at these new British rockets.
Orbex Prime and Skyrora XL Similarities
Orbex Space, Forres, Scotland, has been around since 2015. Prime is its main project, involving the best experts and technology companies worldwide. To date, this UK rocket is in propulsion systems testing stages. To keep up with development, the company is actively appealing for new investment.
Skyrora Ltd was founded in Edinburgh 2 years later than its competitor but has already managed to create and successfully launch suborbital test two British rockets – Skylark Nano and Skylark Micro. Its current focus is on Skyrora XL – a three-stage orbital rocket that has already passed the testing stage and is scheduled for launch in the next 1-2 years.
UK rockets have several common features:
- designed for launching small satellites and CubeSats into space,
- the first stage is reusable,
- built using 3D printing technology,
- use innovative fuels.
Skyrora XL and Orbex Prime Differences
Below, you can see a table comparing technical differences between Orbex Prime and Skyrora XL.
Dimensions and weight
19m х 1.3m, 18 tons
28m х2.2m. 58 tons
up to 150 kg
up to 315 kg
SSO аnd Polar to 1250 km
SSO 500-1000 km, polar – 200-1000 km
Liquid oxygen – biopropane
Hydrogen peroxide -Ecosene
Number of engines
10 + 1 re-ignitable
As you can see, Skyrora XL has a larger payload capacity, which means it can serve more customers. On the other hand, Prime’s compact dimensions ensure more flexible launch conditions. The rocket is cheaper to produce, quicker to get launch-ready and does not need complex infrastructure. Both companies can provide dedicated rideshare services – launching different satellites into different orbits in one launch.
Skyrora XL is more accurate in terms of orbital deployment, while Orbex only announced general data for its Prime rocket. This may indicate that Skyrora has advanced further in its production and testing phase.
In terms of environmental friendliness, Prime claims to be superior to its competitor. Orbex does not use hydrogen peroxide or kerosene in its fuel and claims almost zero emissions. Skyrora, on the other hand, has a lower fuel production cost and has a very unique fuel. Ecosene is a high-quality substitute for kerosene, which is cheaper to manufacture, and it helps the environment by recycling plastic waste.
Obviously, both UK rockets are designed with cutting-edge technology and emphasise sustainability. It is impossible to single out any of them since each performs its own tasks, which means that each will be in demand among certain clients. However, Skyrora’s technological base is more impressive. After all, it already has a line of tested suborbital rockets, and these technologies are successfully used in Skyrora XL development.