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Orbex awarded £3.3m from UKSA as part of ESA's Boost!

Posted 14 December 2023

Forres 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 (ESA) 'Boost!' initiative.



Image courtesy Orbex


The initiative, which is part of ESA’s Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support programme, is 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. Prime is a 19-metre-long 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 fueled by a renewable form of propane (bio-propane), meaning it has a carbon footprint up to 96% lower than traditional satellite launch vehicles powered by fossil fuels.

Martin Coates, CEO, Orbex, said: “Receiving this funding from the UK Space Agency as part the European Space Agency’s Boost! programme is not only very welcome, it’s 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.

"We would like to thank the UK Space Agency for awarding us this funding as part of the ESA Boost! Programme. Orbex Prime will be the world’s most environmentally friendly space rocket and a single launch of the rocket will produce up to 96% less carbon emissions than comparable space launch systems using fossil fuels. This new funding will allow us to undertake activities to build the Ultra-Green Launch Complex at Sutherland Spaceport, from where we look forward to providing the small satellite industry with an option to launch direct from the Europe."

Andrew Griffith MP, Department for Science, Innovation and 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.”

Matt Archer, Director of Launch, UKSA, said: “Our investment in Orbex demonstrates our continued commitment to make the UK Europe’s leading destination for launch by encouraging the development of launch companies. This funding will help Orbex to develop the launch site at Sutherland Spaceport, enhancing our launch capability, creating high skilled jobs and supporting the government’s vision for the UK to be Europe’s most attractive launch destination by 2030.”

Orbex has its corporate headquarters - which is also home to its manufacturing and engineering centre - in the Forres Enterprise Park, Forres, Moray, located at the foot of the Scottish Highlands, near Inverness.

HyImpulse
HyImpulse UK, based in Shetland, will receive nearly £3.4 million to undertake their Hybrid Propulsion Test Programme ahead of the proposed launch of their launch vehicle, named SL1, from SaxaVord Spaceport in Shetland.

By 2030 HyImpulse aim to achieve carbon neutral operations including the use of synthesised paraffin fuel and using renewable energy sources. As a result of the funding, in partnership with Adamant Composites HyImpulse will also establish a new UK-based joint venture called Carbon Launch Systems, to manufacture their carbon fibre Liquid Oxygen Tanks. HyImpulse anticipate that their UK operations will support up to 200 direct jobs in Scotland and a further 1500 across the wider UK supply chain including in Shetland and at the spaceport.

Matt Archer said: "Our investment in both Orbex and HyImpulse demonstrates our continued commitment to make the UK Europe’s leading destination for launch by encouraging the development of launch companies. 

"These contracts will help Orbex to develop the launch site at Sutherland Spaceport and HyImpulse to prepare for their first launch from SaxaVord Spaceport, enhancing our launch capability, creating high skilled jobs and supporting the Government’s vision for the UK to be Europe’s most attractive launch destination by 2030."

The UK invested £12 million into the Boost! programme in 2019, followed by another £12 million in 2022, one of the largest investments from ESA member states. Previous Boost! contracts were awarded to the companies in 2020 and 2021.  

ESA’s head of Space Transportation strategy, Lucía Linares, said: "Environmental aspects are moving more and more into the focus of space activities for the sustainable use of outer space. ESA supports Orbex in its aim to develop the most environmentally friendly launch system possible."

ESA’s Commercial Services Manager and Technical Officer for Boost!, Jørgen Bru, said: "HyImpulse has made remarkable progress towards bringing hybrid propulsion to operations and ESA is dedicating further support to the orbital launch services under development."

Christian Schmierer, Co- Chief Executive Officer of HyImpulse, said: "Commencing this next phase of orbital launch vehicle development, launching our first sounding rocket demonstrator and rapidly expanding our UK operation are very significant milestones for 2024. We have a long history of working with SaxaVord and conducting our motor testing in Shetland and look forward to this next phase of that relationship. We thank the UK Space Agency for this support, their enthusiasm and continued efforts to enable UK launch."

 




 

 

 



 

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