Lifting off from Space Hub Sutherland, the Prime orbital rocket was first unveiled by spaceflight specialists Orbex.
A team of aerospace engineers will now continue testing, allowing for ‘dress rehearsals’ of launches and the development of procedures for the 62ft-long spacecraft.
Orbex recently unveiled the first test launch pad at Kinloss, a few miles from the company’s headquarters in Forres, Morayshire.
The innovative rocket makes the UK the first European country to unveil a lightweight reusable launch vehicle designed to put a new class of small satellite into orbit.
Prime is a 19 m (62 ft) long two-stage rocket powered by seven engines designed and manufactured in the UK and Denmark. The six first-stage rocket motors will be
propel the vehicle through the atmosphere to an altitude of approximately 80 km. The single second-stage engine will complete the journey to low Earth orbit, allowing the release of
its payload of small commercial satellites.
Underlining its green credentials, Orbex Prime is powered by a renewable biofuel, biopropane, supplied by Calor UK, which produces reduced carbon emissions and the rocket has been designed to leave no debris on Earth and in orbit. The new fuel is believed to result in 96% fewer emissions than rockets using fossil fuels.
The Space Hub Sutherland launch site was the first vertical spaceport to receive planning permission in the UK and will be fully operational later this year.
Ian Annett, Deputy Director General of the UK Space Agency: “We are on the cusp of a historic moment, with Orbex playing a leading role in generating brand new launch capability in the UK, while creating opportunities for people and businesses across the country. I can’t wait to see Prime lift off from Space Hub Sutherland.
UK Science Minister George Freeman added: “This is an extremely exciting time for the UK space and satellite sector as we count down to the first satellite launches from UK spaceports. Orbex Prime is a remarkable feat of engineering from a British rocket company pioneering more sustainable and innovative fuels that reduce carbon emissions. It is also
fantastic to see Orbex, based in Morayshire, creating more high quality jobs, demonstrating the value of our thriving space sector in supporting emerging innovation clusters to help improve the whole of the UK.
The small satellite market is growing rapidly as a wide range of new small satellite constellations are being developed and deployed. Micro-launchers like Orbex Prime offer satellite manufacturers a
a dedicated launch service, unlike larger “carpool” launchers, where small satellites are often a secondary payload and often face significant delays.
Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex, added: “From the outside it may look like a regular rocket, but inside Prime is like nothing else. To deliver the performance and environmental sustainability we expected from a 21st century rocket, we had to innovate in so many areas: low-carbon fuels, fully 3D-printed rocket engines, ultra-lightweight fuel tanks and new low-mass reusability. Technology.”