Orbex has announced that it is partnering with UK based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) to carry an experimental payload on its maiden flight from Scotland in 2021.

The first launch of the Orbex Prime rocket will represent a first for the UK space industry, showcasing the UK’s end to end satellite launch capability, combining a UK rocket, a UK satellite and a UK launch site.

This follows the announcement in July 2018 of the proposed UK Vertical Launch spaceport in Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands. At that time, the UK Space Agency announced that Orbex had been chosen to launch orbital vehicles from the site as part of the main consortium.

Orbex has also confirmed that it will launch an upcoming satellite in SSTL’s line of demonstrators by 2023.

“We are extremely excited about the development of a sovereign UK satellite launch capability,” commented Sarah Parker, Managing Director of SSTL.

“This is something SSTL has been advocating for many years, and it will benefit the entire UK space industry. We have been impressed with the rapid progress Orbex has made in a short time, and we look forward to working with them towards the first launch in 2021 and beyond.”

The Orbex Prime vehicle is a completely re-thought and re-engineered rocket, designed to deliver small satellites into Earth’s orbit.

Thanks to its architecture, Prime launchers are up to 30% lighter and 20% more efficient than any other vehicle in the small launcher category say the firm, packing more power per cubic litre than many heavy launchers.

“This is in part due to its unique choice of bio-propane as a fuel, a clean-burning, renewable fuel that cuts carbon emissions by 90% compared to old-fashioned hydrocarbon fuels. The Prime vehicle will launch satellites to altitudes up to 1,250 km (776 miles), inserting them into sun-synchronous or polar orbits.”

“We are humbled by the trust that SSTL has shown in Orbex,” said Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex.

“To have the world’s leading small satellite manufacturer supporting us at this stage of our development is not only a boost to Orbex, but for the UK space industry as a whole. SSTL has shown great leadership in the UK satellite industry for decades, and now they are leading the way again in this strong show of support for a UK-based launch provider.”

Orbex is a UK-based spaceflight company, with subsidiaries and production facilities in Denmark and Germany. The firm says its staff members have professional backgrounds with NASA, ESA and several other commercial spaceflight organisations.

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Another interesting U.K. space rocket company is Skyrora.

Cam Hunter

Why do you say that about orbex?, They just opened a head office to track the Rockets and a rocket manufacturing base a couple miles from my house at Forres near Inverness, atleast they are bringing jobs and vision and it’s exciting.


I laughed ? RG Richards. Just flew a little too high for some!

Daniele Mandelli

I got it straight away.

I’m old enough and sad enough though.

Original Star Wars films always the best.

Daniele Mandelli


At Mos Eisley. What is that “thing” in the streets as the speeder comes into town.

And seeing Jabba there! No way.

All wrong.

Daniele Mandelli





I’m actually amazed when you compare the appetite for ship building against space tech. The space industry has potential to create more high paid jobs and long term future than shipbuilding which is already highly competitive. But most would rather plough money into over priced ships than invest in the UK space industry, I can only assume it nostalgia.

Evan P

Expat, I don’t know of anyone who wants money to be invested into just one or the other. We can and should be looking at ways to boost both industries, as we have the capability to become true giants in these fields.


Well said it should never be either/or in such matters. At one time we produced some of the most advanced rocket motors in the world, indeed US investment was forthcoming just so that they could grab that technology. Long time ago, so it’s good to see if only in a relatively small way so far, we are regaining our interest in this and related technology.


The fact is though you have to make choices, as a country we can only ‘earn or borrow’ a certain amount of money, alternatively there’s foreign investment but then someone else owns the tech. The way to boost both industries is to invest in the one that gives more returns which increases revenues allowing you to invest in the other long term. Personally I feel we’re better off support new technology areas such as space.

America is far better at attracting the investment, UK is not business friendly and quite frankly is shifting left and will not become any friendlier.


It would be great to see the MOD combine with Orbex and SSTL to design a common small satellite bus that could be used for Tractical ISTAR or Communications and rapidly launched by Orbex rocket. That would give the UK a virtually unique tactical space capability all delivered from inside the UK.

Steve M

MOD involvement is interesting as with our pretty unique polar orbit capability/location it’s not hard to see how such launches could aid in an effort by the UK to counter Arctic expansion by Russia et al. I’m not talking hard counter here btw, just so we’re always watching etc ?.
For me I would double down on the space industry now, we have several niches that we really could corner going forward, many of which could yield technology applicable in many areas. Miniaturisation from micro Sat’s being a prime example.


Polar orbit means that the satellite covers the entire earth surface basically as the world rotates around it. All ISR satellites use this and north of Scotland and Alaska are very good launch locations for such an orbit. Having the ability to quickly launch ISR satellites can give a significant advantage especially against a country like Russia that can track and shoot Down satellites. The 150 KG payload can even be used for SAR radar satellites that can track ships.


Uk rocket, UK satellite and UK launch site sounds good. Perhaps if more of the RFA ships were built in the UK we would have a better shipbuilding industry, encourage business to invest and build lower cost ships: