Orbex Facility Upgrades to Bolster UK Effort11th Jul 2023
Orbex are expanding their Scottish and Danish design and production facilities. The British launch vehicle production company are currently working on the UK’s first vertical launch, with their Prime rocket set for blast off after being unveiled in Europe last year. The Orbex facility upgrades come after securing rounds of funding for their facilities to grow by 30% as Orbex gears up for the Prime launch.
Orbex CEO Martin Coates said in a press release: “Many people are eager to see the first successful launch of a satellite from British soil, as are we. But our focus has to be bigger than that, as we aim to build a robust and sustainable launch capability in the UK.”
Expanding Orbex’s Design & Production Facilities
Orbex will add an extra 1,500sqm to the existing 4,750sqm design and production facilities in Forres, Scotland and Copenhagen, Denmark, in order to enhance their launch vehicle production and propulsion system manufacturing capacity.
Additionally, there will be extra space for a software laboratory and avionics clean room with ISO 8 and ISO 9 sections. Finally, the soon to be expanded Forres facility sits 3km away from Orbex’s test site at Kinloss, which will enable quicker turnaround. The rapid upgrade to Orbex’s facilities will see the company “ramp up its testing in the countdown to launch.”
Expanding Operations For The Launch Of Orbex’s Prime Rocket
Orbex’s expansion is centred around the launch of its Prime rocket: the first full orbital micro launcher rocket. The 19-metre spacecraft is designed to launch small satellites into polar and sun-synchronous orbits, with Orbex announcing they inked: “several commercial launch contracts with satellite manufacturers,” which will be launched into orbit aboard Orbex Prime.
Orbex Prime is also sustainability focused, and will leave zero debris on both Earth and whilst in orbit after launch. Additionally, the reusable rocket will be fueled by renewable propane. The rocket’s carbon footprint will be 96% lower than more traditional launch vehicles, according to a University of Exeter study.
Scaling Up Operations & Rounds Of Funding
Orbex progressed through a series of funding rounds with the largest investment of £40.4 million coming from VC funding – as well as existing and new investors – in its series C round, in Q4 of 2022. Additionally, Orbex hired 50 more staff members in preparation for the Prime launch expected sometime in 2023. Orbex said: “this funding has allowed for critical expansion of its production and business facilities, in the run-up to the first launch and beyond.”
The company is moving forward after a change of leadership earlier in 2023. Chris Larmour left as CEO in April, after which the company went looking for more funding. The Orbex facility upgrades are the first major announcement since the change.
Launching Prime From Spaceport Sutherland
In 2018, the UK Space Agency invested £5.5 million in Orbex’s reusable Prime rocket production. Now, that rocket is nearing readiness for launch, Orbex stated a 2023 launch is promising. The company will use their currently under construction ‘home’ spaceport: Sutherland Spaceport in northern Scotland for the Prime launch, which is set to be the world’s first carbon-neutral spaceport.