Orbex begins construction of new rocket launch pad in UK


Small satellite launch service provider Orbex has started construction on its first launch pad – the first orbital space launch pad to be built in the UK in more than half a century.

She commissioned Motive Offshore Group, a Scottish company specializing in the design and manufacture of marine and lifting equipment, to manufacture and install the platform at a dedicated test site near Kinloss, close to the headquarters. from Orbex to Forres.

Known as Orbex LP1, the platform is expected to be fully operational in early 2022.

It will support testing of Orbex’s Prime rocket, a micro-launcher designed to carry small satellites weighing around 150 kg to low Earth orbit.

Although actual launches of the Orbex Prime rocket will not take place at the Kinloss site, the platform will be capable of launching an orbital rocket, allowing for full “dress rehearsals” of the launch procedures.

It is the first such launch pad to be built in the UK since the installation of the High Down Rocket test site on the Isle of Wight, which was decommissioned in the early 1970s.

High Down was the test site for the Black Arrow rocket, the first – and so far the only – British-made rocket to successfully place a satellite into Earth orbit, launched from Woomera in Australia on October 28, 1971 .

The new platform is expected to accelerate rocket launch plans from Orbex’s ‘home’ spaceport at Space Hub Sutherland, the only spaceport in the UK to have received a full building permit. Construction of the spaceport is expected to begin in early 2022, ahead of Prime’s first scheduled launch later this year.

Platform steel fabrication underway at Motive’s Banff headquarters

All equipment for the Kinloss platform is manufactured on site at Motive’s head office in Banff.

Various integration tests are expected to take place during preparation for the launch campaign, including testing of the main propellant tanks and multi-engine hot-shot tests under vertical fire conditions. It will also allow the launch operations team to test launch procedures, including deployment, assembly and refueling procedures.

Chris Larmour, Managing Director of Orbex, said: “The ability of our engineers to test Prime on its own launch pad is a major step forward on the launch roadmap, and we are happy to already build this major infrastructure with Motive Offshore, a partner with very solid experience in other relevant industries. “

James Gregg, COO at Motive Offshore Group, said: “While the aerospace arena may be new territory for Motive, our focus is entirely on the standards and performance required to deliver exceptional custom engineering, we are therefore very impatient to transfer our skills. and expertise on this project.

Ian Annett, Deputy Director General of the UK Space Agency, added: “The construction of this new facility marks another important milestone in our ambitions to become a modern and agile space nation.

“It is a very exciting time for the UK space industry, as we await the very first satellite launches from UK soil next year.”

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