Forres-based spaceflight company Orbex has secured £40.4 million for its Series C funding round, led by a new investor, the Scottish National Investment Bank. The new round of funding will allow the company to scale up its resources as it counts down to the first vertical launch from UK soil, as well as unlocking additional funding to support future projects.
Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex says the funding will unlock a further £80-£90 million to continue projects including building a factory in Moray that will employ around 400 people.
Orbex recently revealed its “Prime” rocket in its final form at its testing site in Kinloss, making this the first full orbital micro-launcher to be unveiled in Europe. Prime is a 19-metre long, two-stage rocket designed to transport small satellites weighing up to 180kg into low Earth orbit.
Orbex´s rocket will launch from the Space Hub Sutherland spaceport near Tongue on the North coast of mainland Scotland, which is expected to be the UK´s first operational spaceport. Orbex applied for a space launch licence from the UK´s Civil Aviation Authority in early 2022.
This latest funding round saw a renewed commitment from existing investors BGF, Heartcore Capital, High-Tech Gründerfonds and Octopus Ventures. New investors include:
- The Scottish National Investment Bank, which was created to deliver economic, social and environmental returns for Scotland through strategic investments in innovative companies and projects, such as Orbex.
- Jacobs, the global technology-forward solutions company, which provides a full spectrum of professional services including consulting, technical, scientific and project delivery for the government and private sector. Jacobs is NASA’s largest services provider, delivering mission-tailored solutions and full lifecycle aerospace capabilities including the Mars Perseverance Rover and the Artemis deep space human exploration program. It also supports key decommissioning and remediation projects at the Dounreay nuclear site in Caithness.
- The Danish Green Future Fund, a special investment fund designed to support the transition to green solutions both in Denmark and the rest of the world through the development of sustainable technology. The investment will be managed on behalf of the fund by Vækstfonden – the sovereign investment fund of Denmark.
- Verve Ventures, a network and technology-driven venture capital firm headquartered in Switzerland. Founded in 2010, Verve Ventures has become one of the most active venture investors in Europe with over 140 technology and science-driven startups in its portfolio. Verve Ventures provides its pan-European network of selected private and institutional investors access to top-tier investment opportunities across Europe.
- British entrepreneurs Phillip and James Chambers, founders of Peakon and Hazport respectively.
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 which will play a part in reducing the carbon footprint of space launches by up to 96 per cent when compared with similarly-sized launch vehicles powered by fossil fuels. The sustainability credentials extend to the company’s ‘home’ spaceport of Space Hub Sutherland, which aims to become the world’s first carbon-neutral spaceport.
Orbex is currently performing a wide variety of integration tests, including the testing of the main propellant tanks and engines, as well as testing launch procedures including rollout, strongback erection and fuelling procedures in advance of the first launch, which will carry a payload developed by one of the world´s largest small satellite developers, Surrey Satellite Technology Limited.
Chris Larmour said: “Orbex 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. This significant new funding round is testament to the work of that team and will allow us to continue to build Orbex towards our long-term goal of establishing a reliable, economically successful and environmentally sustainable European space launch business.”
David Oxley, Director of Strategic Projects at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), said: “This is great news for Orbex and the Highlands and Islands, and a clear demonstration of investor confidence in the business as a leading player in the growing Scottish space sector. We have been pleased to support Orbex’s development in Moray where it has created dozens of high-quality manufacturing jobs over the past couple of years and recently announced plans for many more.
“We are continuing to work very closely with Orbex and look forward to seeing Scottish-made Prime rockets carrying satellites into orbit from a Scottish launch site at Space Hub Sutherland in the near future.” –
Ivan McKee, Scottish Government Business Minister, added: “The Orbex Prime vehicle being built in Moray and to be launched from Space Hub Sutherland will be the first in the world powered by a renewable bio-fuel.
“I congratulate this innovative business on its latest success in raising funds, which will propel progress towards a first launch from 2023. The Scottish National Investment Bank has played a leading role and is actively enabling the transformation of Scotland’s economy by supporting entrepreneurialism and new market opportunities.
“This is another extremely important milestone in the progression of Scotland’s rapidly developing space sector and in delivering against our ambition for Scotland to become Europe’s leading space nation through providing the end-to-end solution for small satellites through design, build, launch and use of the data downstream.” –