A north-east space firm has been awarded €7.45 million by the European Space Agency to help it prepare its “microlauncher” rocket for launch.
Orbex, which is one of the main forces behind the bid to create a spaceport on the Sutherland peninsula of A’Mhoine, announced the news of the funding earlier today.
It is the largest amount of money ever awarded by the ESA’s Boost! Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support programme, which aims to support entrepreneurship in the space industry.
The Forres-based firm said the funds be used to complete spaceflight systems ahead of the launch of their 19-metre “microlauncher”, which is named Prime.
They claim this will also create “a significant number” of new jobs in the UK, and particularly at their Moray headquarters.
An additional €4.7 million in private investment will supplement the award.
Thilo Kranz, Commercial Space Transportation Programme Manager at the European Space Agency, said: “During the evaluation process that preceded this award, we examined Orbex’s service proposal in detail and developed an appreciation for the underlying technical concept as well as the entrepreneurial and commercial approach.
“There is excitement and momentum in European spaceflight and privately led initiatives, like the one from Orbex, are going to be a critical component of the long-term success of the European space industry.”
Development in north of Scotland space race
The cash is a boost to the company in its ‘space race’ against Shetland Space Centre, which lodged plans to build a competing launch site on the island of Unst back in January.
The A’Mhoine spaceport received planning permission in August 2020, and construction is set to begin later this year.
Orbex hopes to make its first launch from the site in 2022.
Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex, said: “We very much appreciate the investment in new, commercially-focused microlauncher technologies from ESA’s new Boost! programme, and we’re especially grateful for the strong support we received from the UK Space Agency and the Portuguese Space Agency, PT Space.
“Orbex’s environmentally sustainable microlaunchers will soon be launching for the first time from the UK, and ESA’s recognition of the commercial and scientific opportunities this brings to Europe is significant.”