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Orbex expands facilities

July 12, 2023

By Chris Forrester

UK-based rocket and spaceflight company, Orbex, has extended its footprint by over 30 per cent across its Scottish and Danish design and production facilities in preparation for the launch of its Prime rocket. The company is adding an extra 1,500 square metres of factory and office space to its existing 4,750 square meter estate in Forres, Scotland, and Copenhagen, Denmark.

Prime will launch from Orbex’s ‘home’ spaceport, Sutherland Spaceport (formerly Space Hub Sutherland) on the north coast of Scotland. The facility is being built and operated by Orbex, under a fifty-year lease, with the option of extending for a further twenty-five years. As with Prime, Sutherland Spaceport is being built with sustainability in mind and is intended to be the first spaceport globally to be carbon-neutral in its construction and operation.

Orbex Prime became the first full orbital micro-launcher rocket to be unveiled in Europe in May 2022. Prime is a 19-metre long rocket designed to launch small satellites into polar and sun-synchronous orbits. Orbex has already announced several commercial launch contracts with satellite manufacturers.

Orbex received one of the largest rounds of VC funding in the global space sector in Q4 of 2022, when it secured £40.4 million in its Series C round, from existing and new investors. 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 also announced last year that it was hiring an additional fifty staff in preparation for launch.

Sustainability has been a focal point in the design of the reusable rocket, which has been engineered to leave zero debris on Earth and in orbit. The rocket is fuelled by a renewable form of propane, meaning that a Prime launch has a carbon footprint up to 96 percent lower than traditional launch vehicles powered by fossil fuels, according to a study by the University of Exeter.

The UK Space Agency awarded £5.5 million to Orbex in 2018 to build a new rocket for launch from Sutherland Spaceport.

Orbex CEO, Martin Coates, commented: “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 our footprint is just one more step forward in that process. We are able to press ahead with our expansion, thanks to the incredible team we have in place and the confidence placed in us by our investors and customers.”

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