UK-based spaceflight company Orbex has extended its footprint by over 30% across its Scottish and Danish design and production facilities, in preparation for the launch of its Prime rocket.

The company is adding an extra 1,500m2 of factory and office space to its existing 4,750m2 estate in Forres, Scotland and Copenhagen, Denmark. The additional space will increase the company’s launch vehicle production and propulsion system manufacturing capacity and add an extra software laboratory and an avionics clean room space with ISO 8 and ISO 9 sections.

Sustainable rocket launch

Prime is a 19-m-long rocket designed to launch small satellites into polar and sun-synchronous orbits. Sustainability has been a focal point in the design of the reusable rocket, which has been engineered to leave zero debris on Earth and in orbit. The rocket is fuelled by a renewable form of propane, meaning that a Prime launch has a carbon footprint up to 96% lower than traditional launch vehicles powered by fossil fuels, according to a study by the University of Exeter.

Prime will launch from Orbex’s ‘home’ spaceport, Sutherland Spaceport on the north coast of Scotland. The facility is being built with sustainability in mind and is intended to be the first spaceport globally to be carbon-neutral in its construction and operation.

Martin Coates, CEO of Orbex, said, “Many people are eager to see the first successful launch of a satellite from British soil, as are we. But our focus has to be bigger than that, as we aim to build a robust and sustainable launch capability in the UK. Expanding our footprint is just one more step forward in that process. We are able to press ahead with our expansion, thanks to the incredible team we have in place and the confidence placed in us by our investors and customers.”

Scottish innovation

Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s Innovation Minister, added, “Companies like Orbex are vital to achieving our vision to make Scotland one of the world’s most innovative small nations. The firm’s Prime rocket, which I have been lucky enough to see up close, not only revolutionises launch technology but puts us at the forefront of the transition to a low carbon economy.

“This latest expansion is testament to the hard work and determination of Orbex which is continuing to make excellent progress towards a launch from Sutherland, bringing high value jobs and increased opportunities in engineering and science to Scotland.”