Arianespace and Orbex are looking  forward towards forming a European launch alliance.

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Both the companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to investigate the possibility of a cooperative service for small satellite launch customers

June 19, 2023

Arianespace, a leading European launch services provider, and Orbex, a UK-based small satellite launch services provider, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to investigate potential collaboration in order to meet the needs of their respective customers.

The objective of the agreement is to enhance the combined capabilities and flexibility of the services offered by both partners. The focus of future collaboration will be on assisting customers who are planning small satellite constellations, offering them a flexible solution for payloads in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). By working together, both light and heavy-lift launch vehicles can support customers in deploying their initial constellations into specific orbital planes, perform precise injections of a smaller number of satellites through dedicated missions, and also provide replenishment and replacement launches as needed.

Martin Coates, CEO of Orbex, expressed his optimism about the potential of this collaboration for the European launch market and his eagerness to explore its possibilities. He conveyed his satisfaction that Arianespace has selected Orbex as a partner, highlighting Orbex’s already strong position in the emerging European microlauncher market. Coates believes that this cooperation has the potential to further enhance Orbex’s commercial success.

The Prime rocket, developed by Orbex, is a two-stage rocket measuring 19 meters in length. It is specifically designed for the transportation of small satellites weighing up to 180kg into Low Earth Orbit. What sets Orbex Prime apart is its utilization of renewable fuel, bio-propane, which significantly reduces carbon emissions compared to other rockets of similar size being developed worldwide. A study conducted by the University of Exeter revealed that Orbex Prime’s carbon emissions are up to 96 percent lower than those of comparable space launch systems powered by fossil fuels.

Orbex has embraced innovative manufacturing technology, specifically large format metal Powder Bed Fusion technology from AMCM. This has generated considerable interest from satellite manufacturers, resulting in the company securing commercial launch contracts with seven customers. In late 2022, Orbex successfully concluded its Series C funding round, raising an additional £40.4 million. Despite the challenges in raising capital, Orbex attracted new investors while retaining the support of its existing investors. 

Orbex initiated the construction of Sutherland Spaceport in May 2023. Located on the North coast of Scotland, it will serve as the first vertical launch spaceport on the UK mainland. Sutherland Spaceport is designated as Orbex’s primary launch facility, enabling the company to deploy up to 12 rockets annually for satellite launches into Earth’s orbit.


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