On Wednesday, May 11, Orbex Space unveiled its first full-scale micro-satellite launching rocket prototype on the launch pad at its Scotland launch site.
As space becomes a bigger and bigger industry, many satellites have gotten smaller and smaller. Orbex Space hopes to focus on these small satellites with its new vehicle, Orbex Prime. The vehicle was built with its environmental impact in mind. Prime will utilize a low-carbon bio-propane. The company says that this use of this fuel reduces carbon emissions by 90% compared to traditional hydrocarbons.
Orbex Prime uses the company’s own 3D printed engine, so Orbex Space joins a number of other companies making use of newer forms of manufacturing to improve vehicle and launch capabilities. The company Launcher is making use of a single part, 3D printed combustion chamber, while Rocket Lab uses 3D printed engines on Electron, and Relativity Space’s Terran rocket is entirely 3D printed.
The most direct comparison to an existing rocket would be Rocket Lab’s Electron
|Orbex Prime||Rocket Lab Electron|
|Rocket size||~19 m x 1.45 m||18 m x 1.2 m|
|Payload fairing inner diameter||1,300mm||~ 1,070mm |
Expanded fairing available
|Max payload||180 kg to SSO||300 kg to LEO|
200 kg to SSO
|Engines||First stage: 6 Orbex engines|
Second stage: 1 Orbex engine
|First stage: 9 Rutherford|
Second stage: 1 Rutherford
This is a major milestone for Orbex and highlights just how far along our development path we now are. From the outside, it might look like an ordinary rocket, but on the inside, Prime is unlike anything else. To deliver the performance and environmental sustainability we wanted from a 21st century rocket we had to innovate in a wide number of areas – low-carbon fuels, fully 3D-printed rocket engines, very lightweight fuel tanks, and a novel, low-mass reusability technology.Orbex CEO Chris Lamour
Space Hub Sutherland
Orbex plans to launch an environmentally friendly rocket from an equally environmentally-friendly launch site. Space Hub Sutherland, in Scotland, will be brought fully operation later in 2022. The launch site has pledged to be carbon neutral – both in construction and operation.
The site, with water to the north, should be a prime candidate for polar launches of Orbex Prime. The first stage of Prime can then splash down into the sea for recovery.
Image credit Orbex Space