Orbex under fire as Danish jobs rise

31st Mar 2023
Orbex under fire as Danish jobs rise

One of the companies planning to launch satellites into orbit from Scotland has secured funding from the Danish government as part of a job creation scheme at their base in Copenhagen. Orbital Express Launch Ltd, with directors mostly based in Denmark and Germany, also has sites in the UK . Critics have put Orbex under fire after promising significant jobs at their Scottish operation in Forres as well as at the launch pad in Sutherland.

Orbex under fire in Sutherland

The company, also known as Orbex, came under heavy criticism during the consultation period when attempting to get public support for their plans in the Scottish Highlands. Critics claimed that there would be very little in terms of job creation other than potentially a small number of security staff and possibly some cleaning staff. However, that didn’t stop Highlands and Islands Enterprise from placing their full weight behind the plans and funding the Danish company.

Recent documents seen by Orbital Today have shown that the Danish government (via their Green Futures Fund) have already invested heavily in the company in order to create new “green” jobs at their significant Copenhagen operation. And it seems the criticism of the company from locals in the Scottish Highlands appears to be prescient as it was recently discovered the company advertised the role of “Head of Propulsion” to be based in Copenhagen, Denmark as well as other senior roles there and a handful of jobs at Forres, yet after a few years passing only one job has been created at Sutherland.

Scaling back

Back in October 2021 we reported that the company had 15 staff with plans to create 300 more jobs – based on a report from the Chambers of Commerce. However, it is believed that only one job has been created at the Sutherland launch site. And that was for a Spaceport Preparation and Support Manager. We have no evidence of whether that advertised job role was even fulfilled. Putting Orbex under fire seems to have not changed anything significantly to date.

The company made further statements about their job creation ambitions in Scotland back in August 2022, however this time they dialed down the numbers to suggest they would create fifty jobs within the next six months. In the same statement, company CEO Chris Larmour said they had already tripled the size of the team over the last 12 months, so as can be seen in their companies house filings from December 2021 they mentioned 48 staff including directors (although our research then showed 15 staff in UK), which would suggest they now have 150. It looks like those are mostly in Denmark. They certainly aren’t in Sutherland.

Growth, but where?

So the good news for Orbex is that they appear to be doing pretty well in building their company in Denmark with the support of the Danish government, and have a large and growing team there. The same cannot be said about their UK operation, and in particular at the Sutherland Space Hub, which has been heavily funded by taxpayer money with the clear ambition of “job creation” being pushed out at every stage and with each handout they receive.

But everything becomes clear when you see the staggering foreign exchange costs in their annual accounts.

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