Orbex’s Latest Funding Could Propel Prime Microlauncher to Space

Founded in 2015, Orbex is one of a handful of firms racing to develop the next generation of European launch vehicles. The company is developing what’s sometimes called a microlauncher: a two-stage vehicle called Prime that stands just 19 meters tall, designed to carry payloads up to 180 kilograms. A larger vehicle could eventually be in the plans as well, though Chambers was clear that Prime was the company’s first priority. The new capital comes after Orbex closed a £40.4 million ($50 million) Series C in October 2022. While a spokesperson confirmed the new funding will “help Orbex ramp up the development of Prime … to ensure full readiness and scalability for its launch period,” a firm launch window has yet to be announced.

Orbex, a UK-based small launch developer, is making great strides in the development of their first orbital launch. With financing from Scotland’s national bank and other investors, Orbex is confident in their ability to launch soon, though no specific date has been set just yet.

“We are seeing an exponential growth of satellites being launched into LEO and demand for launch is far exceeding supply – at the present time it’s not possible to launch a single kilogram from Europe and there is pent-up demand for sovereign launch capabilities.” – Orbex CEO, Philip Chambers

Founded in 2015, Orbex is among a select group of companies working to develop the next generation of European launch vehicles. With the retirement of the Ariane 5 and major delays to the Ariane 6 and Vega C rockets, there is a significant need for new launch capabilities in Europe.

Taking advantage of this opportunity, Orbex is currently focused on the development of their microlauncher, named Prime. Standing at just 19 meters tall, Prime is a two-stage vehicle designed to carry payloads up to 180 kilograms. For comparison, Rocket Lab’s Electron, standing at 18 meters tall, can carry up to 300 kilograms.

Unlike its larger counterparts, Orbex sees their smaller stature as an advantage. Chambers explains that “the laws of physics dictate that if you want to compete on cost per kg you need to do this with larger vehicles, therefore, I think that it makes sense for Orbex to consider this.”

Prime will take off from a new spaceport located in Sutherland, northern Scotland, which has received funding from the UK’s national space agency. Additionally, Orbex plans to incorporate their patented recovery technology, REFLIGHT, which utilizes an interstage structure and parachute to enable a soft ocean splashdown.

“We will offer freedom of action to European customers to be in control of their own launches and launch European Payloads from European soil.” – Orbex CEO, Philip Chambers

While Prime is currently the company’s top priority, Orbex has plans for a larger vehicle in the future. Chambers notes that many of Prime’s core technologies can scale up to support larger payloads.

Orbex’s latest Series D funding round has raised £16.7 million ($20.7 million) from investors such as Octopus Ventures, BGF, Heartcore, EIFO and others. This comes after their successful £40.4 million ($50 million) Series C round in October 2022. While the fresh funding will aid in the development and scalability of Prime, no official launch window has been announced yet.

With the support of investors and a strong focus on innovation, Orbex is well on their way towards revolutionizing the European launch market.

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Max Chen

Max Chen is an AI expert and journalist with a focus on the ethical and societal implications of emerging technologies. He has a background in computer science and is known for his clear and concise writing on complex technical topics. He has also written extensively on the potential risks and benefits of AI, and is a frequent speaker on the subject at industry conferences and events.

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