At a glitzy VIP event to commemorate the opening of their new headquarters, small launch vehicle developer Orbex unveiled their Prime upper rocket stage. The upper stage is unique in that it is fitted with the world’s largest 3-D printed rocket engine powered by 100% renewable fuels.
“With our collective experience, we have developed a low mass, low carbon, high performance 21st-century orbital launch vehicle, designed specifically to support the needs of the rapidly growing smallsat industry,” explained Orbex CEO, Chris Larmour. “There is a significant launch backlog for small satellites globally and Orbex is primed to give industry and science a cost-effective, reliable and responsive route into space, directly from Europe.”
Orbex has been quietly developing their small launch vehicle, Prime since the company’s founding in 2015. On February 19, 2019, the company made a grand entrance to the world stage unveiling the Prime rocket’s upper stage at their new headquarters and rocket design facility in Forres in the Scottish Highlands.
The two-stage Prime rocket is constructed from lightweight carbon fibre and aluminium composite. The rocket will stand at a height of 19 meters and will be capable of launching a 150-kilogram payload into a low Earth orbit. Both stages of the rocket are powered by 3-D printed engines burning bio-propane (BioLPG) and liquid oxygen (LOX). The result is a very efficient environmentally friendly launch vehicle.
Orbex has selected the proposed Sutherland and Azores spaceports as potential launch sites. The Prime’s maiden flight is expected to be launched in 2021.