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Space

Orbex secures £16.7m investment

UK spaceflight company Orbex has received £16.7 million from six backers in an update to its Series C funding round.

Image courtesy Orbex

With pre-launch testing underway, the funding will help Orbex ramp up the development of Prime, its 19-metre long, two-stage rocket designed to transport small satellites into Low Earth Orbit. The aim is to ensure full readiness and scalability for its launch period.

Orbex now has two active patents in a number of European countries and the United States covering various parts of its rocket technology. It is powered by a renewable bio-fuel, which allows the rocket to reduce carbon emissions significantly compared to other similarly sized rockets being developed elsewhere around the world.

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Investors involved in the deal include £10.5 million follow-on investment from the Scottish National Investment Bank, venture capital firms Octopus Ventures, BGF, Heartcore, the Export & Investment Fund of Denmark (EIFO) and a number of corporate and angel investors.

The funding injection comes after scale-up expert Phillip Chambers and former Director General of the Spanish Space Agency Miguel Belló Mora joined to form a new leadership team in January. Chambers himself became an investor in the firm’s £40m Series C funding round in 2022.

Phillip Chambers, CEO of Orbex, said: “Orbex is one of only two space rocket manufacturers in the UK and the only one to also operate its own spaceport. Our technology is pivotal in making the UK a hub for European orbital launch and we are entering a critical phase of development. We are building a sustainable, cost-effective launch vehicle to compete with the best of Europe’s spaceflight manufacturers. This additional funding will support our goal to push on into an operational launch phase and scale our business when the time comes.”

Nicola Douglas, Executive Director of Innovation at the Scottish National Investment Bank, said: “The Bank recognises the unique potential the space industry offers for Scotland. We are perfectly placed to leverage our geographical location, vibrant business and innovation landscape, and our skilled workers to be one of the most significant global players in this growing industry.

“At the Bank, we have been particularly drawn to Orbex’s commitment to sustainability through its use of renewable biofuel and launch technology, all working towards the goal of carbon neutrality. Its approach perfectly aligns to our net zero and innovation missions. This follow-on investment comes at an exciting time as Orbex expands its manufacturing and looks to complete its Sutherland Spaceport this year.”

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Paddy Graham, Head of Scotland at BGF, said: “Orbex has made significant progress since we first invested, becoming one of the leading players in the UK space sector. We are pleased to build on our support for the business and will continue to work closely with the company’s renewed leadership team as they work towards the initial launch phase.”

Erik Balck Sørensen, CIO at Export & Investment Fund of Denmark (EIFO), said: “EIFO is thrilled to continue giving support to Orbex as it is one of the few companies with Danish presence that fulfils the strategic focus EIFO has within the defence, green transition and commercialisation of research. Whereas the EU currently relies on the US or other foreign countries, Orbex can in the near future give the EU space launch capabilities again. The Orbex technology platform provides a significant reduction in CO2 equivalent emissions through innovative combustion design and use of green fuels. Furthermore the addition of Phillip Chambers as CEO and Miguel Bello as Executive Chairman to bolster the current stellar R&D and engineering team is a constellation EIFO as an organization want to support.“

Simon King, Partner at Octopus Ventures, said: “We’re delighted to continue supporting Orbex on their journey as Europe’s leading private launch services company. We’ve been incredibly impressed with the new leadership team and wider team’s progress, and we’re particularly excited about the progress towards first launch. At Octopus Ventures we invest in the people, ideas and industries that will change the world ─ Orbex is a fantastic example of a business doing exactly that.”

With testing and launch now in its sights, Orbex will soon enter a new phase of growth with a Series D funding round, which will aim to secure its long-term prospects as the leading orbital launch business in Europe.

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