A SCOTTISH aerospace company has unveiled its groundbreaking new rocket which is set to be the first of its kind in Europe.

Orbex, based in Moray, will reveal a prototype of its Prime orbital rockets for the first time today, representing a major step forward for the firm.

Its new generation of European launch vehicles are designed to launch a new category of very small satellites to orbit. Today will see Orbex proceed with the first ever vertical rocket launch to orbit from UK soil.

The National: It'll be the first vertical rocket launch to take off from the UKIt'll be the first vertical rocket launch to take off from the UK

Orbex’s Prime rocket is the first “micro-launcher” developed in Europe to reach this stage of technical readiness.

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Orbex recently revealed its first test launch platform at a new test facility in Kinloss, a few miles from the company’s headquarters at Forres.

Prime is a 19-metre long, two-stage rocket that is powered by seven engines, designed and manufactured in the UK and Denmark.

The six rocket 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, allowing the release of its payload of small, commercial satellites into Earth’s orbit.

The National: Pioneering technology will see it become 'the world's greenest rocket launch'Pioneering technology will see it become 'the world's greenest rocket launch'

Uniquely, Orbex Prime is powered by a renewable bio-fuel, bio-propane, supplied by Calor UK. The fuel allows the rocket to reduce carbon emissions significantly compared to other similarly-sized rockets.

A study by the University of Exeter showed that a single launch of the Orbex Prime rocket will produce 96% lower carbon emissions than comparable space launch systems using fossil fuels.

Prime is also a re-usable rocket which has been engineered to leave zero debris on Earth and in orbit.

Josef Aschbacher, director general of the European Space Agency (pictured left), said: “I am deeply impressed with the speed at which the Orbex Prime rocket was developed. It is the first full orbital micro-launcher in Europe.

“But I am equally impressed by the low-carbon footprint technology applied.

The National:

“My sincere congratulations to the whole Orbex team for this impressive achievement.”

Orbex Prime will launch from Space Hub Sutherland, the first vertical spaceport to receive planning permission in the UK, and will be the first European spaceport brought into operation later in 2022.

It’s also the first and only spaceport worldwide that has committed to being carbon-neutral, both in its construction and operation.

Ian Annett, deputy CEO of the UK Space Agency, said: “We are on the cusp of a historic moment, with Orbex playing a leading role in generating a 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 a hugely exciting time for the UK space and satellite sector as we count down to the first satellite launches from UK spaceports.

The National:

“Orbex Prime is a remarkable feat of engineering from a British rocket company, pioneering more sustainable and innovative fuels that cut carbon emissions.

“It is also fantastic to see Moray-based Orbex creating more high-quality jobs, demonstrating the value of our thriving space sector to support emerging clusters of innovation to help level up the whole of the UK.”

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The market for small satellites is increasing rapidly, as a wide range of new small satellite constellations are developed and deploye.

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

“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.”