Orbex reveals 1200m² space rocket factory
Welcoming the UK’s focus on low-cost, reliable commercial spaceflight activities in today’s Queens’s Speech, a UK company has revealed details of a 1200m² space rocket factory currently building vertical launch vehicles that will be launched into orbit from the UK.
Orbex, a UK company that has raised significant venture capital investment, is building a space micro-launcher, a small launch vehicle able to transport payloads of up to 150kg to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The company is already using the existing factory to build key launch vehicle subsystems, and is currently looking for an additional 2000m2 production facility in Scotland.
“We’re planning to launch our vehicles into orbit from Scotland, so building up a new production facility to support that activity locally makes complete sense,“ said Chris Larmour, CEO. “We’ve identified an excellent launch site on the north coast of Scotland and have been working with various regional and national agencies to make detailed proposals for development. We expect to create around 250 new high-tech jobs directly or indirectly, and create significant new revenues for UK-based suppliers and partners as our activities expand in the UK,” he continued.
Orbex has kept development under wraps over the past two years, but has been making rapid progress in private, while also keeping regulatory authorities fully informed. “We’ve already built ignition systems, main engines, avionics and cryotanks at our existing factory and have recently completed a series of main engine hot fire tests at our own engine test site,” said Kristian von Bengtson, Orbex CTO. “Our engineering team has experience of building several rocket engines and launch vehicles, many of them with backgrounds working at NASA and ESA, which is a set of skills that gives us a very strong competitive advantage against global competition,” he added.
The UK’s focus on orbital launch of small satellites is a perfect match for the Orbex vertical launcher, which has been specifically designed to transport small satellites into low Earth orbit from the UK. A UK-based vertical launch capability also completes the end-end value chain in the UK, which already has a very strong satellite manufacturing sector. Vertical launchers are the industry standard, used by all major nations and spaceflight companies for efficiency and cost effectiveness. The Spaceflight Bill first published earlier in 2017 and confirmed in today’s Queen’s Speech reinforces the UK’s commitment to creating a native vertical launch capability.
Orbex recently demonstrated its rocket engine technology to 450 investors during a major venture capital conference in Germany, as well as presenting privately during the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget this week. Orbex has also recently made several new hires from the UK aerospace sector to work on launch vehicle avionics subsystems.