Countdown starts to Sutherland spaceport blast off after major funding secured

The countdown to the first launch from a spaceport in Sutherland has begun after a major funding deal was sealed.

Conceived as an environmentally sustainable launch system, the Orbex rocket uses bio-propane, a renewable biofuel that cuts CO2 emissions by 90 per cent compared to traditional kerosene-based rocket fuels.

Orbex, the space launch company, said it has secured $24 million (£18m) in a funding round led by BGF – formerly the Business Growth Fund – and venture capital outfit Octopus Ventures.

They have joined existing investors High-Tech Grunderfonds, Heartcore Capital and Elecnor SA – parent company of the multi-national space firm Deimos Space. The new investments secure the roadmap to the first launch from the Sutherland spaceport.

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Conceived as an environmentally sustainable launch system, the Orbex rocket uses bio-propane, a renewable biofuel that cuts CO2 emissions by 90 per cent compared to traditional kerosene-based rocket fuels. It is intended to leave no debris in the ocean or in orbit.

The company is constructing the rocket vehicle at factories in Forres, near Inverness, and Copenhagen in Denmark.

Orbex has already confirmed six commercial satellite launch contracts, with the first launches expected in 2022. Its preferred launch site will be the Sutherland spaceport, which was granted planning permission in mid-August.

Chief executive Chris Larmour said: “This financing round is an important step forward for Orbex. It helps us maintain our rapid pace and allows us to move forward with certainty towards our first launch from the Sutherland spaceport.

“With BGF and Octopus Ventures we have found significant strategic partners who recognise our vision, and who have the capability to support our development through both the early flights and into subsequent growth and production.”

Keith Barclay, Investor at BGF, said: “Orbex is an impressive UK company which is developing a strongly differentiated and innovative launch solution for the rapidly-growing small satellite market

“In Europe, they are a recognised leader with an experienced team, substantial institutional support, a growing customer list and patented technology.

“The private space sector remains a key future industry for both Scottish and UK governments and we’re very excited to be backing one of the most compelling examples of this evolving sector.”

The announcement by Orbex will bring significant new investment in high technology employment opportunities and large-scale production facilities in the Highlands, close to the launch site at the A’Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland.

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