13 December 2023 News

Orbex awarded £3.3 million as part of ESA initiative

UK-based orbital launch services company, Orbex, has been awarded £3.3 million in funding from the UK Space Agency (UKSA) as part of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) 'Boost!' initiative, part of ESA’s Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support programme designed to further the development of world-leading space launch technologies.

Orbex will use the funding to undertake activities to build the Ultra-Green Launch Complex at Sutherland Spaceport, located on the north coast of Scotland.

The spaceport is being designed with sustainability in mind and is intended to be the first spaceport globally to be carbon-neutral in its construction and operation. The site will see the launch of up to 12 orbital rockets per year, with several commercial launch contracts with satellite manufacturers already secured.

Sustainability is also a core driver in the design of the company’s advanced, low-carbon, high-performance micro-launcher, Orbex Prime, a 19-metre-tall rocket designed to launch small satellites into polar and sun-synchronous orbits.

It has been carefully engineered to leave zero debris in orbit and is fuelled by a renewable form of propane (bio-propane), meaning it has a carbon footprint up to 96 percent lower than traditional satellite launch vehicles powered by fossil fuels.

Orbex CEO Martin Coates said: “Receiving this funding from the UKSA via ESA is very welcome and a further validation of our commitment to delivering low-carbon, high-performance space launch services in a way that respects the environment.

“The development of the Ultra-Green Launch Complex at Sutherland Spaceport is a critical step this journey, and this support will enable us to continue working toward our ultimate goal of making the UK a central hub for European space flight.”

UK space minister Andrew Griffith MP, of the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology, said: "The UK’s space industry is thriving and we’re committed to becoming Europe’s leading destination for small satellite launches and developing world class commercial spaceflight capability up and down the country. Today’s funding will not only help grow our domestic launch capability but also catalyse investment across the supply chain, creating highly skilled jobs and local opportunities right across the UK.”

Orbex is a UK-based spaceflight company with headquarters, production and testing facilities in Scotland, and design and testing facilities in Denmark. Orbex staff members have professional backgrounds with NASA, ESA and several commercial spaceflight organisations.

The company is funded by the Scottish National Investment bank, two of the UK’s largest venture capital funds, BGF and Octopus Ventures, two of Europe's largest venture capital funds, Heartcore Capital and the High-Tech Gründerfonds, as well as strategic investors Elecnor, parent company of Deimos Space, and Jacobs, the largest services supplier to NASA.

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