Bank’s backing boosts rocket manufacturer

18/10/2022
Left to Right : Alastair McMillen (Associate Director – Sustainable Investment, Scottish National Development Bank), Nicola Douglas (Executive Director – Innovation, Scottish National Investment Bank), and Simon Beswick (CFO, Orbex) outside one of the Orbex facilities in Forres, Moray

ENVIRONMENTALLY friendly space rocket manufacturer and satellite launch provider Orbex is set to expand its operations following a £17.8million investment by the Scottish National Investment Bank.

The scale-up support, which is part of an overall £40million Series C funding round, will help the Moray-based company unlock significant additional funding sources to boost plans for future projects. Support from the Bank was also pivotal in leveraging additional investment from new and returning investors.

Earlier this year, Orbex unveiled a prototype of its small satellite launcher, ahead of a debut flight from the Space Hub Sutherland spaceport over the coming months.

The innovative Prime rocket will be the first orbital rocket to be powered by a renewable bio-fuel, Calor’s Futuria Liquid Gas. A form of bio-propane, it helps reduce the carbon footprint of a launch by up to 96 percent compared with similarly-sized launch vehicles powered by fossil fuels.

Nicola Douglas, Executive Director, Scottish National Investment Bank said: “This is a very exciting time for the Scottish space sector. With Orbex, we will have a rocket assembled in Scotland, launching from Scotland and likely transporting satellites built in Scotland into orbit.

“This investment is a great example of the Bank working with other investors to support scale-ups in Scotland and aligns with our mission to invest in innovation and the industries of the future. Providing support to help organisations to scale-up is a priority for the Bank.

“We’re building a full end-to-end commercial space ecosystem in Scotland and we’re proud to play our part in this funding round, which will help deliver jobs and prosperity for the space sector and the wider economy.” 

Prime is a 19-metre long, two-stage rocket, powered by seven engines, that has been designed and manufactured in the UK and Denmark. The six engines on the first stage of the rocket will propel the vehicle through the atmosphere to an altitude of around 80km.  

The single engine on the second stage of the rocket will complete the journey to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), allowing the release of its payload of small, commercial satellites into Earth’s orbit. Many of the satellites deployed will be used for earth observation and environmental monitoring.

Chris Larmour, CEO, Orbex: “We are delighted to welcome the Scottish National Investment Bank as a significant new investor in Orbex.

“Our company has made significant progress to get to this point, with the invention of ground-breaking, innovative technology, the rapid development and testing of the launch vehicle, the expansion of our manufacturing footprint in the UK and Denmark, the creation of the UK´s first orbital spaceport in mainland Scotland, and the growth in customers from the UK, Europe and America signing up to launch dedicated payloads with Orbex.

“These results have only been made possible by the maturity and dedication of the entire Orbex team, who bring a huge amount of skill and experience to their tasks from a wide variety of industries, launch systems and spacecraft, and by the ongoing trust and support of our partners and investors.

“This new funding round, which was led by the Bank, will allow us to continue to build Orbex towards our long-term goal of building a reliable, economically successful and environmentally sustainable European space launch business.”

This latest funding round saw an ongoing commitment from returning investors Octopus Ventures, BGF, Heartcore Capital, and High-Tech Gründerfonds.

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