A Government minister has signalled his desire for the UK to be “Europe’s leading destination for small satellite launches” as he announced a funding boost for two companies working in Scotland.
Orbex, an orbital launch services company based in Forres near Inverness, and HyImpulse UK, which is working towards a launch at the SaxaVord Spaceport in Shetland, will receive about £6.7m between them.
The funding was awarded thanks to UK Space Agency contributions to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Boost! programme.
Speaking as the cash was announced, Andrew Griffith, minister for space at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said: “We want the UK to become Europe’s leading destination for small satellite launches, building on our expertise in satellite design.
“Pioneering innovations like building the world’s most eco-friendly space rocket signal our commitment to being at the forefront of the next generation of space technology, while raising our standing as a leader in space sustainability.
“Our funding alongside further private sector investment will enhance the work of our ambitious space sector while creating highly skilled jobs across the UK that grow our economy.”
Orbex, which aims to make the Sutherland spaceport the first carbon-neutral spaceport in the world, is to receive more than £3.3m to help ensure its work is environmentally sustainable.
The cash will help it install a specialist plant to manufacture “clean” propane fuel from renewable feedstocks, such as waste material from vegetables.
The company hopes to launch up to 12 orbital rockets a year, powered by this renewable biofuel.
Meanwhile HyImpulse UK, which is based in Shetland, will receive nearly £3.4m towards its hybrid propulsion test programme, which is taking place ahead of the launch of its SL rocket.
The company aims to make its operations at the SaxaVord site carbon neutral by 2030, by using synthesised paraffin fuel and renewable energy sources.
Matt Archer, from the UK Space Agency, said: “Our investment in both Orbex and HyImpulse demonstrates our continued commitment to make the UK Europe’s leading destination for launch by encouraging the development of launch companies.
“These contracts will help Orbex to develop the launch site at Sutherland Spaceport and HyImpulse to prepare for their first launch from SaxaVord Spaceport, enhancing our launch capability, creating high skilled jobs and supporting the Government’s vision for the UK to be Europe’s most attractive launch destination by 2030.”
Martin Coates, chief executive officer at Orbex, thanked the UK Space Agency for its support, as he said: “Orbex Prime will be the world’s most environmentally friendly space rocket, and a single launch of the rocket will produce up to 96% less carbon emissions than comparable space launch systems using fossil fuels.
“This new funding will allow us to undertake activities to build the ultra-green launch complex at Sutherland Spaceport, from where we look forward to providing the small satellite industry with an option to launch direct from the Europe.”
Meanwhile Christian Schmierer, co-chief executive officer at HyImpulse, stated: “Commencing this next phase of orbital launch vehicle development, launching our first sounding rocket demonstrator and rapidly expanding our UK operation are very significant milestones for 2024.
“We have a long history of working with SaxaVord and conducting our motor testing in Shetland and look forward to this next phase of that relationship.
“We thank the UK Space Agency for this support, their enthusiasm and continued efforts to enable UK launch.”
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