UK-based spaceflight company Orbex has showcased its rocket during the inauguration of its new headquarters and rocket design facility in Forres in the Scottish Highlands.

Designed to deliver small satellites into Earth’s orbit, this prototype was made using SLM Solutions additive manufacturing and a material that is made up of lightweight carbon fibre and aluminium composite. SLM Solutions is part of these reliable 3D Printing companies of the industry. The manufacturer supplies its solutions to both demanding markets such as aerospace and automotive and industrials.

The experts used the manufacturer’s SLM®800 large-format metal additive manufacturing system that integrates a 260x500mm powder bed. Capable of achieving parts of 800mm tall, Orbex was able to build its rocket in a single piece, something that is not common in the industry.

Thanks to its novel architecture, Prime launchers are up to 30% lighter and 20% more efficient than any other vehicle in the small launcher category, packing more power per cubic litre than many heavy launchers.

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 bio-propane, 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.

Graham Turnock, Chief Executive, UK Space Agency said: “Orbex’s new rocket design facility brings Britain one step closer to having its own domestic commercial launch capability and firmly positions the UK as Europe’s frontrunner for those looking to Earth’s orbit and beyond for new opportunities. The new facility and future spaceport operations will help unlock vast economic and societal benefits not just in Scotland but right across the UK.”

Since the announcement in July 2018 that we had been chosen to launch from the Sutherland spaceport, Orbex has been on an incredible journey, largely behind-the scenes,” said Chris Larmour, Orbex CEO. “That is changing today, as we publicly reveal the company’s technical and commercial momentum. Not only do we have a full engineering prototype of the complete Stage 2 of the Prime rocket, but also a growing roster of customers hoping to be among the first to launch satellites from Scotland.

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