Re-usable and sustainable rocket to launch from UK spaceport


Re-usable rocket developer Orbex has confirmed that its Orbex Prime rocket will be launched from the UK’s first spaceport, which is to be built in Sutherland, Scotland.

Scottish startup Orbex was founded in 2015 and is developing what it describes as an “environmentally sustainable launch system” that will use renewable biofuels.

Earlier this year, the European Space Agency awarded Orbex a contract under its Future Launchers Preparatory Program to cover the further development of reflight, a low mass system which will allow Stage One boosters to be recovered and reused in multiple missions to reduce the use of raw materials.

The Orbex Prime rocket, which will use the reflight system, has its first launch planned for early 2022 at the Space Hub Sutherland spaceport. The rocket will be the first vertical launch vehicle to fly into orbit from the Space Hub, which will be constructed near Melness on the northern coast of Scotland.

The confirmation of the launch comes after the Highland Council in Scotland approved construction of the Sutherland spaceport. Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex said, “This is a landmark in the history of spaceflight in. We look forward to becoming an integral part of the local community as we establish our own permanent team at the Space Hub.”

Orbex said that design and development work has continued throughout the pandemic, with its coaxial fuel tank being subjected to ongoing cryogenic testing. The company has also signed a lease to install a new testing facility at the former RAF base at Kinloss, Scotland.

In parallel Orbex’s rocket engines have been progressing through a program of increasingly demanding performance tests while avionics and guidance systems are also being ground tested.

“The go-ahead for Space Hub Sutherland, combined with the steady progress of the Orbex Prime launch vehicle, are important steps towards the first truly orbital space flight from the UK. The last piece of the jigsaw puzzle is the regulatory framework that will govern launches, and we look forward to those regulations being laid before Parliament in the coming weeks,” concluded Larmour.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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