Orbex, Scots space launch firm, in $24m funding

Orbex, the European space launch company based in Forres, Scotland, said it secured $24 million in a funding round led by BGF and Octopus Ventures.

“BGF and Octopus Ventures have joined existing investors High-Tech Gründerfonds, Heartcore Capital and Elecnor S.A. — parent company of the multi-national space firm Deimos Space — in a new funding round for the orbital launch services company,” said Orbex.

“The new investments secure the roadmap to the first launch from the Space Hub Sutherland spaceport in Scotland.”

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 recognized 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 Orbex Prime rocket uses bio-propane, a renewable biofuel that cuts CO2 emissions by 90% compared to traditional kerosene-based rocket fuels.

Designed to be recoverable and re-usable, Orbex Prime is intended to leave no debris in the ocean or in orbit.

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

“Orbex is creating a highly innovative launch solution that is rapidly gaining market traction with very serious customers,” said Simon King, partner at Octopus Ventures.

“We’re delighted to be part of the future of the company and are very excited about what they’re looking to achieve, including the first ever vertical launches from UK soil.”

Orbex has confirmed six commercial satellite launch contracts, with the first launches expected in 2022.

The company’s preferred launch site will be the Sutherland spaceport on the northern coast of Scotland, which was granted planning permission in August 2020. 

Orbex CEO 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.”

The funding round was completed by a €2.5 million grant from the European Horizon 2020 SME Instrument programme — the first for a UK space-sector company — to support the development of patented coaxial tanking technology.

Orbex previously won £5.5 million in grant funding from the UK Space Agency’s Launch UK programme in 2018.