Author Topic: Orbex  (Read 54607 times)

Offline ringsider

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #100 on: 06/13/2023 02:33 pm »
Interesting move: Orbex signs collaboration deal with Arianespace:

There is no commitment to do anything other than talk.

Arianespace doesn't sign such things lightly, esp. with some non-French startup. This will have been all way up to French ministers, Arianegroup CXO etc. Just the fact they announce this is quite surprising.

Arianespace and Orbex to Explore European Launch Partnership

The two launch providers signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore possible joint offering for small satellite launch customers


"Forres, UK, June 13, 2023 – Arianespace, the European launch services provider, and Orbex, the UK-based provider of small satellite launch services, today announced that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to study possible future cooperation to answer its customers’ requirements.

The agreement aims to increase the joint capabilities and flexibility of both partners’ services. In particular, it is expected that future collaboration would be particularly beneficial for customers planning small satellite constellations, providing a flexible solution for Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) payloads.

Light and heavy-lift launch vehicles could jointly support customers in deploying their initial constellations into the required orbital planes, provide precise injections of a smaller number of satellites through dedicated missions, as well as provide replenishment and replacement launches."

Offline PM3

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #101 on: 06/14/2023 08:27 am »
Orbex was founded in 2015, and eight years later there is no indication that they have produced anything but talk, mock-up hardware and SpaceX-bashing. A "memorandum of understanding to explore some possibility" fits into this history of loudly doing nothing. It is as vague as a cooperation can be.

I would not be surprised if Orbex goes bankrupt within a few years without having built a working rocket.
"Never, never be afraid of the truth." -- Jim Bridenstine

Offline eeergo

Re: Orbex
« Reply #102 on: 06/14/2023 08:59 am »
So I was intrigued by the "Orbex Prime's 90% reduction in carbon emissions according to a study from the University of Exeter" claim, which for obvious reasons sounded very much like unleashed marketing combined with creative accounting.

The propellant of choice for the rocket ("bio-propane") actually also goes by the name "naphtha", which of course sounds much more menacing. Actually, that's the name Russia employs for it, as they've been using it for a while now (https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=45044.0). Unsure if it's exactly the same substance, additives and all (unlikely), but by all accounts seems close. Evidently, the chemical burning of the fuel will produce the same amount of emissions as other hydrocarbon fuels under the same flight characteristics.

Another matter is of course the substance's upstream production details - ostensibly in this case, they talk about it coming from "renewable diesel production", which implies biofuel production (whose overall carbon impacts are murky, as it can come from expanded crops to produce the necessary vegetable oils, plowed into woods or otherwise wild lands, and reduces food production... or can come from waste processing, which has a much gentler emissions impact: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/bbb.1796). It would be nice to see the data the "Exeter University" consulting by Dr. Xiaoyu Yan uses, but I've been unable to find the study which is only available "upon request".

According to the above, biofuel production (without factoring in the bio-naphtha/propane extraction) is on average 40-50 gCO2e/MJ, although it can vary quite a lot, reportedly from 5 gCO2e/MJ to >100 gCO2e/MJ. Typically quoted carbon footprints of fossil natural gas are around 135 gCO2e/MJ. So sure, if they use the absolutely less impactful biofuel production method they might be able to quote that, but not in every case. The provider lists the fuel as around 12 gCO2e/MJ if used at 100% purity, so there's that, but I doubt it's the case when the Exeter study takes into account also black carbon deposition equivalent impacts.

Regarding the nebulous agreement with Arianespace, it's just another one of those (natural) agreements that existed within the EU and now have to be reformulated. Not particularly enthralling for Sutherland.
« Last Edit: 06/14/2023 09:21 am by eeergo »
-DaviD-

Offline DJPledger

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #103 on: 06/14/2023 12:17 pm »
Orbex was founded in 2015, and eight years later there is no indication that they have produced anything but talk, mock-up hardware and SpaceX-bashing. A "memorandum of understanding to explore some possibility" fits into this history of loudly doing nothing. It is as vague as a cooperation can be.

I would not be surprised if Orbex goes bankrupt within a few years without having built a working rocket.
SpaceX rideshare will likely put Orbex out of business before they are able to launch along with a lot of other small LV startups.

Offline edzieba

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #104 on: 06/14/2023 12:40 pm »
Orbex was founded in 2015, and eight years later there is no indication that they have produced anything but talk, mock-up hardware and SpaceX-bashing. A "memorandum of understanding to explore some possibility" fits into this history of loudly doing nothing. It is as vague as a cooperation can be.

I would not be surprised if Orbex goes bankrupt within a few years without having built a working rocket.
SpaceX rideshare will likely put Orbex out of business before they are able to launch along with a lot of other small LV startups.
That prediction has been made regularly since before even SSO-A back in 2018. Since 'cheaper' is only a single aspect among many that customers use to choose what vehicle to launch with (more often than not cost isn't the sole, or even primary, factor), it will still be just as accurate a prediction in the years to come as it has been previously.

Offline trimeta

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #105 on: 06/14/2023 10:14 pm »
Orbex was founded in 2015, and eight years later there is no indication that they have produced anything but talk, mock-up hardware and SpaceX-bashing. A "memorandum of understanding to explore some possibility" fits into this history of loudly doing nothing. It is as vague as a cooperation can be.

I would not be surprised if Orbex goes bankrupt within a few years without having built a working rocket.
SpaceX rideshare will likely put Orbex out of business before they are able to launch along with a lot of other small LV startups.
That prediction has been made regularly since before even SSO-A back in 2018. Since 'cheaper' is only a single aspect among many that customers use to choose what vehicle to launch with (more often than not cost isn't the sole, or even primary, factor), it will still be just as accurate a prediction in the years to come as it has been previously.
How about "Rocket Lab dedicated rides will likely put Orbex out of business before they are able to launch," then? Orbex Prime has less payload than Electron, so they can't compete on dedicated rides that can't go with Rocket Lab. They could try capturing the "cannot launch on a US-affiliated rocket" market, but I'm a little skeptical that the UK opens up spaceflight to a significantly wider group of countries. The intersection of those two is relevant, too: while there are payloads which would prefer to launch on a non-ITARed rocket, even though they're capable of launching from a US(-ish) one, there are many companies internationally which plan on providing that, and the ones which have a payload advantage vs. Electron would seem to be much better positioned in the international market too.

Which basically just leaves UK government launches which are intentionally procured from domestic companies to encourage the industry. Will there be enough of those to support not one but two companies (since Skyrora is also out of Scotland)?

Re: Orbex
« Reply #106 on: 06/15/2023 01:37 am »
I don't think SpaceX or Rocket Lab or Skyrora will be the thing that does Orbex in. ABL Space though...
Wait, ∆V? This site will accept the ∆ symbol? How many times have I written out the word "delta" for no reason?

Offline trimeta

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #107 on: 06/15/2023 03:29 am »
I don't think SpaceX or Rocket Lab or Skyrora will be the thing that does Orbex in. ABL Space though...
Because their mobile launch hardware allows them to launch from SaxaVord, and thus have a "UK" launch (much like how Virgin Orbit's Start Me Up mission was a "UK" launch -- which is to say, basically not at all)?

Re: Orbex
« Reply #108 on: 06/15/2023 03:01 pm »
I don't think SpaceX or Rocket Lab or Skyrora will be the thing that does Orbex in. ABL Space though...
Because their mobile launch hardware allows them to launch from SaxaVord, and thus have a "UK" launch (much like how Virgin Orbit's Start Me Up mission was a "UK" launch -- which is to say, basically not at all)?
And because they have already been contracted to do exactly that, by Lockheed Martin.
Wait, ∆V? This site will accept the ∆ symbol? How many times have I written out the word "delta" for no reason?

Offline trimeta

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #109 on: 06/15/2023 04:06 pm »
I still don't understand why "this American company is launching from the UK" is competition for a UK-based launch company, except insofar as launch is a globally-competitive marketplace in general. But it's not like an American company launching from the UK is any more of a threat than an American company launching from New Zealand. They've both got the same regulations and red tape to satisfy American agencies, and whatever pain is reduced by not shipping the payload itself out of the UK is surely much less than the pain of shipping the whole rocket and launch infrastructure into the UK.

If the UK wants sovereign launch capabilities, they won't achieve that by having a foreign company fly all the equipment in, so in what sense does said foreign company compete with a domestic company whose whole raison d'etre is providing that sovereign launch?

Offline edzieba

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #110 on: 06/16/2023 08:04 am »
whatever pain is reduced by not shipping the payload itself out of the UK is surely much less than the pain of shipping the whole rocket and launch infrastructure into the UK.
When shipping a launch vehicle to the UK, the overhead is borne by the launch provider who need to fold that cost into their offered launch price (whilst still remaining competitive with any domestic providers), whereas when shipping a satellite to NZ/US/etc that export overhead is borne by the customer.
i.e. ABL's launch-from-UK sticker-price needs to be competitive with Orbex's launch-from-UK sticker price, but ABL have to eat the overhead cost of importing the rocket (both physical shipment and paperwork) as part of that pricing whilst Orbex do not.

Offline trimeta

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #111 on: 06/16/2023 02:37 pm »
whatever pain is reduced by not shipping the payload itself out of the UK is surely much less than the pain of shipping the whole rocket and launch infrastructure into the UK.
When shipping a launch vehicle to the UK, the overhead is borne by the launch provider who need to fold that cost into their offered launch price (whilst still remaining competitive with any domestic providers), whereas when shipping a satellite to NZ/US/etc that export overhead is borne by the customer.
i.e. ABL's launch-from-UK sticker-price needs to be competitive with Orbex's launch-from-UK sticker price, but ABL have to eat the overhead cost of importing the rocket (both physical shipment and paperwork) as part of that pricing whilst Orbex do not.
Does it really matter whether the shipping costs are directly paid by the customer, or indirectly paid through the launch price increasing? My point with comparing ABL and Rocket Lab was that on net, I would expect the total shipping cost to be lower for Rocket Lab, since a much smaller thing is being shipped. Now, the benefit of Orbex is that nothing needs to be shipped into or out of the UK: both payload and rocket can stay in the country until they're launched. But if we're comparing Orbex to foreign companies, I don't think it matters whether the shipping costs are a separate line item or rolled into the launch price: a customer will see that this is an additional cost over doing things domestically. And if they were choosing between foreign providers, I don't think "one of them ships their rocket here (thus making it more expensive)" would inherently be appealing, thus make that one more competitive with the domestic company than the foreign provider which requires the payload to be shipped.

Offline edzieba

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #112 on: 06/17/2023 03:33 pm »
whatever pain is reduced by not shipping the payload itself out of the UK is surely much less than the pain of shipping the whole rocket and launch infrastructure into the UK.
When shipping a launch vehicle to the UK, the overhead is borne by the launch provider who need to fold that cost into their offered launch price (whilst still remaining competitive with any domestic providers), whereas when shipping a satellite to NZ/US/etc that export overhead is borne by the customer.
i.e. ABL's launch-from-UK sticker-price needs to be competitive with Orbex's launch-from-UK sticker price, but ABL have to eat the overhead cost of importing the rocket (both physical shipment and paperwork) as part of that pricing whilst Orbex do not.
Does it really matter whether the shipping costs are directly paid by the customer, or indirectly paid through the launch price increasing?
Yes. If you're looking at two quotes, both of roughly the same price, but one requires you to handle international shipping of your satellite (and ensuring it arrives undamaged), deal with export and import law (and potentially ITAR issues), possibly requiring you to hire a whole new member of staff just to handle those international logistics and legal challenges, and do so all at your own expense; and the other is a few hours drive away with a rent-a-van, that second option looks a lot more attractive. Even if that option costs more, you have to weight it up vs the other price plus your best estimate of those extra costs (and time cost!) of what it will take for the international option, along with some fudge factor for when things inevitably turn out to be more complicated and slower than you expect.

Offline trimeta

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #113 on: 06/17/2023 06:03 pm »
Yes. If you're looking at two quotes, both of roughly the same price...
Can you explain to me how ABL is incurring significant extra internal costs (ones greater than all the extra costs you go on to describe later in your comment) without passing those onto the customer, leading to a higher price? Is it because they've decided to accept a much lower profit margin? Because if so, this comparison isn't about whether a customer wants to go with the company that ships their rocket into the UK vs. the company that requires shipping the payload out of the UK; it's whether the customer wants to go with the company that has a 10% profit margin vs. a 50% profit margin (or whatever, these numbers are made up). Obviously, from the customer's point of view, you'd prefer the company with a significantly lower profit margin, and that may outweigh other factors. But that certainly doesn't tell us anything about the relative value to the customer of those other factors.

The only possible explanation I could see is "ABL ships rockets into the UK so often that they've got a streamlined process for it, they know all the agencies to contact and all the shipping companies to use, so the marginal cost of doing it again is fairly low." Obviously, they're not there yet, having not yet shipped even a single rocket into the UK. Also, it would be possible for a company like Rocket Lab to set up a division to help customers deal with their own shipping issues; just pay Rocket Lab a fee on top of the launch cost, and they'll handle the rest. That would even fit in with Rocket Lab's whole "end-to-end space solutions" concept.

Offline ringsider

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #114 on: 06/17/2023 06:49 pm »
The propellant of choice for the rocket ("bio-propane") actually also goes by the name "naphtha"

Propane = naphtha? Why then do they have different market prices and chemical formulae?

Offline Kryten

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #115 on: 06/18/2023 03:32 pm »
The propellant of choice for the rocket ("bio-propane") actually also goes by the name "naphtha"

Propane = naphtha? Why then do they have different market prices and chemical formulae?
I'm not sure what the substance referred to as 'naphtha' in Russia is exactly but it's not a cryogen so it definitely isn't propane. For whatever reason names of hydrocarbon derivatives vary drastically between languages and regions (is the stuff that goes in my car petrol, gas, or benzin?).
« Last Edit: 06/19/2023 12:42 pm by Kryten »

Offline edzieba

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #116 on: 06/19/2023 11:24 am »
The propellant of choice for the rocket ("bio-propane") actually also goes by the name "naphtha"

Propane = naphtha? Why then do they have different market prices and chemical formulae?
I'm not sure what the substance referred to as 'naphtha' in Russia is exactly but it's not a cryogen so it definitely isn't propane. For whatever reason names of hydrocarbon derivatives very drastically between languages and regions (is the stuff that goes in my car petrol, gas, or benzine?).
Similar to Kerosene: US Kerosene can mean an aviation fuel (JP-8 and RP-1) or for the refined lamp/heating fuel. In the UK, the aviation fuel is still Kerosene but the lamp/heating fuel is Paraffin. In the US, Paraffin would be understood as liquid Paraffin oil (a refined mineral oil) rather than the lamp fuel.

As for Orbex: they specifically use Calor's BioLPG, which is a byproduct from biodiesel hydrogenolysis. It's basically Propane derived from a different feedstock.

Naphtha on the other hand is a different product than Propane. Propane is a cryogenic liquid and a specific product, whereas Naphtha is not cryogenic (boils above room temperature) and is a category of crude derivative light products with varying compositions.

Offline eeergo

Re: Orbex
« Reply #117 on: 06/19/2023 11:55 am »
You guys caught an error in my post: indeed naphtha is a byproduct of biodiesel production, together with propane, but they aren't the same thing. They are referred to together in the literature as byproducts that are obtained contemporarily, but definitely not as the same substance.

However, they can be mixed together into a single substance (see Table 1 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/bbb.1796), sometimes referrred to as "renewable naphtha" (70% propane, 30% naphtha), that is generically called "light-ends fraction". Quite probably not the "BioLPG" Orbex intends to use, just the direct precursor from which it is extracted.
-DaviD-

Online FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #118 on: 11/09/2023 06:54 am »
https://twitter.com/andrewparsonson/status/1722507958460747868

Quote
In case you missed it, I published issue 78 of the newsletter yesterday. In this issue, I looked at Orbex, its 2022 financials, and how the company is progressing with the construction of Sutherland Spaceport in Scotland.

https://europeanspaceflight.substack.com/p/a-peek-behind-the-orbex-curtains

Offline PM3

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #119 on: 12/05/2023 11:32 am »
Orbex is alive:

https://interestingengineering.com/innovation/uk-rocket-first-sustainable-satellite-launch

They are integrating stages, hope to start stage testing soon, and have trouble with too much dust in their test range near Copenhagen. "Currently applying for licenses for Sutherland Spaceport and its launch vehicle."

That's all for now. No roadmap to launch, just trying to make progress.
"Never, never be afraid of the truth." -- Jim Bridenstine

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