Orbex, Scots space launch firm, hires CEO & chair

Phillip Chambers and Miguel Belló Mora

Forres-based orbital launch services company Orbex announced the appointment of two tech and space sector stalwarts as the firm’s new CEO and executive chair.

Entrepreneur and scale-up expert Phillip Chambers joins as Orbex’s new CEO and Miguel Belló Mora leaves his post as Director General of the Spanish Space Agency to join Orbex as executive chair.

Chambers is already an investor in the company.

The pair join Orbex at a critical time for the UK space sector, which is rapidly developing the necessary capabilities to launch satellites into orbit for the first time.

Orbex said it has already confirmed six commercial satellite launch contracts and is developing one of the most environmentally sustainable orbital launch rockets in the world.

The firm has its headquarters and production facilities in Forres in the north of Scotland and design and production facilities in Denmark.

In October 2022 Orbex said it secured £40.4 million for its Series C funding round, led by new investor the Scottish National Investment Bank with £17.8 million.

The October 2022 funding round saw a renewed commitment from existing investors BGF, Heartcore Capital, High-Tech Gründerfonds and Octopus Ventures.

New investors at that point includes the Scottish National Investment Bank, NASA’s largest services provider Jacobs, the Danish Green Future Fund, Switzerland’s Verve Ventures, and entrepreneurs Phillip and James Chambers, founders of Peakon and Hazport respectively.

“Chambers joins with more than two decades of experience in building innovative companies, scaling technology platforms for some of Europe’s most successful start-ups, including Gumtree, Peakon (acquired by Workday), and Qype (acquired by Yelp),” said Orbex.

“Chambers has already been part of the Orbex journey, becoming an investor in the firm’s Series C funding round during which the company raised £40.4 million.

“Belló Mora most recently held the role of Director General of the Spanish Space Agency and Commissioner for the Aerospace Strategic Project for Economic Recovery and Transformation (PERTE), where he oversaw a €4.5 billion programme for the Spanish aerospace sector.

“This followed an illustrious career in leadership positions including founder and CEO of DEIMOS space group and CEO of the Atlantic International Research Centre.”

As CEO, Chambers will oversee the next phase in Orbex’s growth, including the completion of its Sutherland Spaceport, which will be the first spaceport globally to be carbon-neutral in its construction and operation, testing phases and regulatory licensing.

This will culminate in the company’s first launch from the UK mainland.

As full-time executive chair, Belló Mora will provide crucial industry knowledge to support Orbex’s strategy.

Chambers said: “It’s a hugely exciting time to be joining Orbex and the global space industry as we look ahead to a significant period of growth for the business.

“As we progress towards the completion of the Sutherland Spaceport and our continuing work towards our first launch, we’re about to embark on an incredible journey.

“Orbex’s work is pivotal in making the UK a hub for European orbital launch, and after having already invested in the vision, I’m looking forward to focusing all my energy on driving Orbex towards the next phase of growth.”

Belló Mora said: “I’ve never experienced a more exciting time during my 40 years in the space industry.

“Orbex’s ambition to continually drive the industry forward in both technology and green innovation, is unique for the business, and I am pleased to be able to help shape this.

“To be joining at the same time as Phil is an added bonus, and I look forward to working closely together during what is shaping up to be a crucial few years for Orbex.”

Orbex said it is building Prime, a 19-metre long, two-stage rocket designed to transport small satellites weighing up to 180kg into Low Earth Orbit.

Orbex Prime is powered by a renewable bio-fuel, which allows the rocket to reduce carbon emissions significantly compared to other similarly sized rockets being developed elsewhere around the world.

Last year, Orbex began construction of Sutherland Spaceport (formerly Space Hub Sutherland) on the North coast of Scotland.

It is the first vertical launch spaceport to be built on the UK mainland and will become Orbex’s “home” spaceport, where the company will launch up to 12 rockets per year for the deployment of satellites into Earth’s orbit.