UK rocket company Orbex unveils first full-scale micro-launcher rocket
British rocketry company Orbex has publicly unveiled the first full-scale prototype of the Prime orbital space rocket on its dedicated launch pad for the first time.
The unveiling of the first of a new generation of European launch vehicles – designed to launch a new category of very small satellites into orbit – represents a major step forward for the British rocket company as it prepares for the first ever vertical rocket launch in orbit from British soil. Orbex’s Prime rocket is the first “micro-launcher” developed in Europe to reach this stage of technical readiness.
With the first full integration of the Orbex rocket on a launch pad now complete, the company is in a position to enter a period of integrated testing, allowing dress rehearsals of rocket launches and the development and optimization of launch procedures. launch. Orbex recently unveiled its first test launch pad at a new test facility at Kinloss, a few miles from the company’s headquarters at Forres in Moray, Scotland.
The Prime Orbital Space Rocket is the most environmentally friendly rocket in the world. 1 credit
Prime is a 19 meter long, two-stage rocket powered by seven engines, which is designed and manufactured in the UK and Denmark. The rocket’s six first-stage rocket motors will propel the vehicle through the atmosphere to an altitude of approximately 80 km. The rocket’s single second-stage engine will complete the journey to low Earth orbit (LEO), allowing the release of its payload from small commercial satellites into Earth orbit.
Uniquely, Orbex Prime is powered by a renewable biofuel, biopropane, supplied by Calor UK. This fuel allows the rocket to significantly reduce carbon emissions compared to other similar-sized rockets under development elsewhere in the world. A study from the University of Exeter has shown that a single launch of the Orbex Prime rocket will produce 96% fewer carbon emissions than comparable space launch systems using fossil fuels. Prime is also a reusable rocket that was designed to leave no debris on Earth and in orbit.
The United Kingdom is the first European country to unveil an innovative and lightweight reusable launcher:
Josef Aschbacher, Director General, European Space Agency (ESA): “I am deeply impressed by the speed at which the Orbex Prime rocket has been developed. It is the first fully orbital micro-launcher in Europe. But I am also impressed by the low carbon footprint technology applied. My sincere congratulations to the entire Orbex team for this impressive achievement.
Orbex Prime will launch from Space Hub Sutherland, a new spaceport being built on the north coast of Scotland. Space Hub Sutherland was the first vertical spaceport to receive planning permission in the UK and will be the first European spaceport to come into operation later in 2022. It is Orbex News Release also the first and only spaceport in the world that is committed to being carbon neutral, both in its construction and in its operation.
Ian Annett, Deputy Director General of the UK Space Agency: “We are on the cusp of a historic moment, with Orbex playing a leading role in generating brand new launch capacity in the UK, while creating opportunities for people and businesses across the country. I can’t wait to see Prime lift off from Space Hub Sutherland.
UK Science Minister George Freeman: “This is an extremely exciting time for the UK space and satellite sector as we count down to the first satellite launches from UK spaceports. Orbex Prime is a remarkable feat of engineering from a pioneering UK rocket company in more sustainable and innovative fuels that reduce carbon emissions It is also fantastic to see Orbex, based in Moray, creating more high quality jobs, demonstrating the value of our thriving space sector in supporting innovation hubs emerging to help improve the whole of the UK.
The small satellite market is growing rapidly as a wide range of new small satellite constellations are being developed and deployed. Micro-launchers such as Orbex Prime offer satellite manufacturers a dedicated launch service, unlike larger “rideshare” launchers, where small satellites are often a secondary payload and often face significant delays.
Chris Larmour, CEO, Orbex: “This is a major milestone for Orbex and underlines how far we are on the path to development. From the outside, it may look like a regular rocket, but inside, Prime looks like nothing else. To deliver the performance and environmental sustainability we expected from a 21st century rocket, we had to innovate in so many areas: low-carbon fuels, fully 3D-printed rocket engines, ultra-lightweight fuel tanks and new low-mass reusability. Technology.”
Discover more of our innovation stories here.