UKSA Funds Green Orbex & Hylmpulse UK Launch Activities

16th Dec 2023
UKSA Funds Green Orbex & Hylmpulse UK Launch Activities

Launch providers Orbex and Hylmpulse UK have acquired a shared £6.7 million of funding from the UK Space Agency (UKSA). The investment was pledged via the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Boost! Programme using capital provided by UKSA. 

A near-even split of funding will target both Orbex and Hylmpulse’s sustainable spaceflight and launch activities from their respective Scottish spaceports. Particularly, operations from Sutherland Spaceport for Orbex and SaxaVord Spaceport for Hylmpulse. 

Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology, Andrew Griffith, said in a statement: “Pioneering innovations like building the world’s most eco-friendly space rocket signal our commitment to being at the forefront of the next generation of space technology, while raising our standing as a leader in space sustainability.”

£3.3 Million For Orbex Space

Based in Inverness, Scotland, Orbex Space will receive a £3.3 million of the £6.7 million.This funding will be used to target the company’s sustainability drive as they gear up for their first launch from Sutherland Spaceport. 

The £3.3 million will be allocated towards “a clean propane produced from renewable feedstocks such as plant and vegetable waste”, UKSA said. This is in addition to funding aimed at propelling the construction of Sutherland Spaceport. According to UKSA, Sutherland is poised to be “the first carbon-neutral spaceport in the world… in construction and operation.” Once Orbex and Sutherland Spaceport are ready, 12 Prime launches are set to take place annually.

Construction on the spaceport began in May this year. But once operational, Orbex is aiming to complete the first vertical launch on the UK mainland using their Prime rocket. UKSA said Orbex’s sustainability focused, “environmentally friendly” biofuel, will be manufactured at Sutherland. 

Difficulties Facing Sutherland Spaceport

Orbex is currently overseeing the development of their home launch site, located in the A’ Mhòine peninsula in the Scottish Highlands. The site will provide an economic boost to the UK space sector and has received considerable funding from UKSA. 

However, recent reports have seen difficulties arise after Lockheed Martin backed out of the project. Equally, Sutherland Spaceport is also rumoured to have run out of funding. As a result, delays are expected. In 2020, Orbital Today looked into the project’s funding background after the Scottish government began investigating backers: Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HEI). The investigation subsequently unearthed a shortfall in financial securities – view the findings by clicking here.

Nevertheless, Orbex is pushing on with their home spaceport. UKSA said HEI is predicting 657 jobs will be created in the surrounding areas, as well as on-site. Equally, Orbex’s recent Chief Commercial Officer appointment should also generate the support needed to underpin Orbex’s – and the UK’s – space ambitions.   

Hylmpulse To Receive £3.4 Million 

Hylmpulse receiving funding for SaxaVord launch activities. Credit: UKSA
Credit: UKSA/Hylmpulse

Shetland-based launch provider, Hylmpulse UK, will receive the larger portion of the funding round; that being, upwards of £3.4 million. UKSA said a segment of the investment will go towards Hylmpulse’s Hybrid Propulsion Test Programme. This is “ahead of the proposed launch of their… SL1 [rocket], from SaxaVord Spaceport.” 

UKSA’s funding will also provide backing towards Hylmpulse’s new partnership with Adamant Composites, labelled ‘Carbon Launch Systems’. Both companies are working collaboratively to build an array of “carbon fibre Liquid Oxygen Tanks.” 

In addition, Hylmpulse aspires to attain carbon neutral operations by 2030. To achieve this ambition the company is developing a “synthesised paraffin fuel and… renewable energy sources,” UKSA said. 

Co-CEO of HyImpulse, Christian Schmierer, said: “launching our first sounding rocket demonstrator and rapidly expanding our UK operation are very significant milestones for 2024. We have a long history of working with SaxaVord and conducting our motor testing in Shetland and look forward to this next phase of that relationship. We thank the UK Space Agency for this support, their enthusiasm and continued efforts to enable UK launch.”

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