Scottish aerospace company Orbex has been awarded €7.45m through Boost!, the European Space Agency’s Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support programme, which supports commercially sustainable space transportation services in Europe.
The Boost! contract follows an evaluation process to assess Orbex’s commercial strategy, financial stability and technical progress. This is the largest award made to date by the programme and Orbex will supplement the funding with €4.7m in matching private investment.
The funds from the award will go towards the completion of spaceflight systems in preparation for the first launches of Prime, Orbex’s 19m ‘microlauncher’ rocket.
“There is excitement and momentum in European spaceflight and privately led initiatives, like the one from Orbex, are going to be a critical component of the long-term success of the European space industry,” said Thilo Kranz, Commercial Space Transportation Programme Manager at the European Space Agency.
€11.25m of the total funding will be assigned to work undertaken in the UK, in particular the lightweight avionics designed by Orbex, and the guidance, navigation and control (GNC) software subsystem being designed by Elecnor Deimos, an investor and partner of Orbex. The remaining €900,000 will support the development of the GNC for the orbital phase being developed by Elecnor Deimos for Orbex in Portugal.
“Orbex´s environmentally sustainable microlaunchers will soon be launching for the first time from the UK, and ESA’s recognition of the commercial and scientific opportunities this brings to Europe is significant,” said Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex.
The Boost! funding will support the creation of new jobs in the UK, in particular at Orbex headquarters in Forres, Scotland. To date, Orbex has six commercial customers for satellite launches, with the first expected in 2022 from Orbex’s spaceport, Space Hub Sutherland on the A’Mhoine peninsula.
Prime will be fuelled by bio-propane, renewable fuel which is said to reduce CO2 emissions by 90 per cent compared to kerosene-based fuels, and creates no atmospheric black carbon. The Prime rocket was designed to be re-usable, incorporating a novel recovery and reusability system. The rocket has also been designed to leave zero debris in orbit around the Earth.