Issue 70  
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Agenda
15.02.2019 14:04

3D Printed Rocket Engine from Orbex

Orbex has publicly unveiled its “Prime” rocket at the opening of its new headquarters and rocket design facility in Forres in the Scottish Highlands.

UK-based spaceflight company, Orbex, with subsidiaries and production facilities in Denmark and Germany, has received funding from the UK Space Agency (UKSA), two of Europe's largest venture capital funds, Sunstone Technology Ventures and the High-Tech Gründerfonds, as well as strategic investor Elecnor Deimos Space, private investors, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission Horizon 2020 programme.

Orbex is constructing orbital launch vehicle, called Prime, to deliver small satellites into Earth’s orbit.

The completed engineering prototype of the Stage 2 rocket (the stage that will transit into orbital flight after launch) is made from a specially-formulated lightweight carbon fibre and aluminium composite and includes the world’s largest 3-D printed rocket engine. .

Seen for the first time, the 3-D printed rocket engine was uniquely manufactured in a single piece without joins in partnership with additive manufacturer SLM Solutions. Given the extreme temperature and pressure fluctuations involved in space flight, this gives the engine an advantage over other rocket engines, which can suffer from weaknesses associated with joining and welding. It is also the first commercial rocket engine designed to work with biopropane, a clean-burning, renewable fuel source that cuts carbon emissions by 90% compared to fossil hydrocarbon fuels, supplied by Orbex’s new exclusive BioLPG fuel partner Calor.

Orbex first came into the public eye in July of 2018, when the UK Space Agency announced that Orbex had been chosen to launch from the proposed spaceport in Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands, as part of the main consortium.

At that time, the company announced that it had already won £30 million in private and public backing for the project, making it Europe’s best-funded private launch company, straight out of stealth mode.

On Orbex Prime’s maiden flight from Scotland in 2021, the rocket will carry an experimental payload from UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL), the world’s leading manufacturer of small satellites.

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