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Rocket builder takes on more space for its growing Forres workforce

Orbex's headquarters on Forres Enterprise Park.
Orbex's headquarters on Forres Enterprise Park.

Rocket builder Orbex is expanding its operations in Moray, with a move into a building close to its headquarters.

The company’s chief executive, Chris Larmour, said it needed the extra space to accommodate its growing workforce and house new equipment.

The firm is also working on a detailed planning application for a new factory that could create hundreds of new jobs.

Orbex, which is aiming to start launching its Prime mini-satellite carrying rockets from the planned Space Hub Sutherland spaceport next year, opened its base on Forres Enterprise Park in 2019.

The firm now employs around 100 people, with the majority of them based at the Moray facility.

It plans to move into the vacant building, which will give it more than 10,700 sq ft additional space, in the coming weeks.

Orbex chief executive, Chris Larmour.

As well as its facilities in Forres, the company has a test site at nearby Kinloss Barracks.

Mr Larmour said: “The unit across the road from our current factory became available and we are taking it on from mid-September.

“There is office space there and two big workshops.  In one of them we’re going to put in a massive new autoclave, that’s a carbon fibre pressure cooker effectively.

“The main rockets will be integrated there before they are moved to our Kinloss site.”

He added that “bizarrely” one of the biggest issues the company faced in the move was difficulty sourcing office desks and chairs, because of the supply chain problems throughout the UK.

New factory would be ‘significant locally’

Plans by Orbex to build a new factory at the enterprise park, creating up to 300 jobs, first emerged at the end of last year.

Mr Larmour added: “We’ve already put in the outline planning notice and we are working on the details of that now.

“If that all goes ahead that will be several hundred employees in that building, which will be significant locally.”

Orbex is aiming to start launching its rockets from the planned spaceport on the A’Mhoine peninsula, in Sutherland, by the end of next year.

In August, a legal challenge to the planning permission granted for the site’s development was rejected in the Court of Session, following a judicial review.

In the wake of that ruling, Mr Larmour said, “the countdown to space launch from the UK can begin.”

He also welcomed an announcement last week by the European Space Agency (ESA) that it was to allow companies such as Orbex to bid to launch its satellite payloads.

He said it was “really good news” for the firm as previously they had all been carried by the ESA’s  Ariane rockets.

Earlier this year Orbex secured more than £6m funding from the ESA Boost! Programme to support the development of its launch vehicle.

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