Aerospace company Orbex has begun construction of the first new rocket launchpad to be built in the UK for over half a century.
The company has commissioned marine manufacture and lifting specialists, Motive Offshore Group, to fabricate and install the launch platform at a dedicated test site near Kinloss, close to the Orbex headquarters in Forres, Scotland.
The launch platform, known as Orbex LP1, will support the testing of Orbex´s Prime rocket, a micro-launcher designed to transport small satellites weighing around 150kg to low Earth orbit.
Although Orbex will operate its launches from Space Hub Sutherland, Orbex LP1 will allow for full testing of launch procedures.
Space Hub Sutherland is billed to be the world’s first carbon neutral spaceport and is the only spaceport in the UK to have received full planning permission.
Construction of the spaceport is due to begin early in 2022 ahead of the first expected launch of Orbex Prime later in the year.
The test launch platform includes the infrastructure and supporting services that will enable a variety of integration tests to take place during the launch campaign preparation, including the testing of the main propellant tanks and multi-engine hot fire testing under vertical firing conditions.
Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex, said: “The ability for our engineers to test Prime on its own launchpad is a major advancement on the roadmap to launch, and we are happy to already be constructing this major piece of infrastructure with Motive Offshore, a partner which has a very strong track record in other relevant industries.
“This will be the first launchpad of its kind built in the UK for more than half a century and we look forward to seeing it completed and ready to go into service in the New Year.”
James Gregg, COO at Motive Offshore Group, said: “Motive Offshore Group welcomes the opportunity to work with Orbex on this exciting project.
“Whilst the Aerospace arena may be new territory for Motive, we are completely focused on the standards and performance required to deliver outstanding custom engineering, so very much look forward to transferring our skills and expertise on this project.”
The UK Space Agency has supported the development of Orbex’s Prime Rocket with £5.5 million of funding, as part of the government’s plans to enable small satellite launch from UK spaceports.
The test launch platform is expected to be fully operational by early 2022.
Image credit: Orbex
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