Space

Orbex unveils the UK's first vertically-launched orbital rocket

Orbex unveils the UK's first v...
Prime will be the first vertically-launched space rocket from the UK
Prime will be the first vertically-launched space rocket from the UK
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Prime will be the first vertically-launched space rocket from the UK
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Prime will be the first vertically-launched space rocket from the UK
Prime at the public unveiling
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Prime at the public unveiling

Orbex has publicly unveiled the full-scale prototype of its reusable Prime rocket on its pad at Space Hub Sutherland in northern Scotland, where the first-ever vertical launch of a satellite from UK soil is set to be carried out in the coming months.

Despite being a major player in space technology, Britain hasn't launched a space rocket since 1971 and has never launched one from UK soil. Now, with the booming market in CubeSats and other small satellites, Scotland-based aerospace company Orbex has developed Prime. This is a 19-m (62-ft), two-stage rocket with carbon/graphite components and seven Anglo-Danish 3D-printed engines – six in the first stage and one in the second stage – all running on green bio-propane.

Now that Prime has been fully integrated and set on its pad, it will undergo extensive testing, launch rehearsals and tweaking of launch procedures. When ready, the rocket will be able to deliver batches of small satellites to low-Earth orbit. According to Orbex, Prime is designed to leave zero debris during the launch thanks to its reusability and produce 96 percent lower net carbon emissions than conventionally-fueled launchers.

Prime at the public unveiling
Prime at the public unveiling

Prime is scheduled to launch later this year when Space Hub Sutherland becomes fully operational. When it does, it will not only be Britain's first vertical launch space facility, but the first spaceport in Europe, and the first in the world to claim to be carbon neutral.

"This is a major milestone for Orbex and highlights just how far along our development path we now are," said Chris Larmour, CEO, Orbex. "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."

The video below shows highlights from the Prime rocket unveiling.

Orbex Prime

Source: Orbex

6 comments
6 comments
Smokey_Bear
meh, another small rocket. (it's only 3 feet taller then Rocket Labs Electron)
FB36
I do not think CO2 emissions from rockets is really significant compared to global transportation but still all rockets better switch to biofuel/biodiesel! (As such fuels are not just environmentally friendly but also much safer to handle/store than hydrogen, for example!)

(& the same actually goes for all heavy trucks, trains, ships, aircraft! Our whole world desperately need start producing biodiesel/biofuel at large scale from all possible industrial/agricultural/forestry waste/biomass & even trash & sewage!)
jeronimo
It's just an Electron copy, without the wonderful panoramic view of Hawke Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

You've got to admit the Electron launch site, at the end of an elevated peninsula, surrounded by sea, is the most stunning launch site on the planet.
TechGazer
If the biofuel is grown _instead_ of a bioproduct that isn't intended to be burned, is it really carbon-neutral? Growing crops using petrochem fertilizer in a way that depletes the soil carbon isn't carbon neutral. Is the point to qualify for some government subsidies?
Smokey_Bear
FB36 - and if we don't? I assume you'll dye your hair blue and scream at everyone...
Nelson Hyde Chick
FB36, wouldn't that depend on the quantity? If prices comedown everyone will want to experience zero gravity. There was a time when the emissions from cars was nothing; back then cars were a cure for horsesh*t.