Orbex Secures £30 Million Funding for UK Space Launch VehiclesRockets to Launch Small Satellites into Orbit from UK Spaceport Using Renewable FuelFarnborough, UK, July 16, 2018 – Orbex has announced that it has secured £30 million ($39.6 million) in public and private funding for the development of orbital space launch systems. Orbex will launch orbital vehicles from the newly-announced UK Vertical Launch spaceport in Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands as part of the main consortium.Recently emerging from stealth mode, Orbex is a UK-based spaceflight company, with subsidiaries and production facilities in Denmark and Germany. The company has received funding from the UK Space Agency (UKSA), two of Europe's largest venture capital funds, Sunstone Technology Ventures and the High-Tech Gründerfonds, as well as private investors, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission Horizon 2020 programme.Orbex is constructing a completely re-thought and re-designed orbital launch vehicle, called Prime, to deliver small satellites into Earth’s orbit. The Prime launcher has a novel architecture that eliminates the fundamental mass challenge of small launchers. Prime launchers are up to 30% lighter and 20% more efficient than any other vehicle in the small launcher category, packing more power per cubic litre than many heavy launchers. The Prime vehicle will launch satellites to altitudes up to 1,250km, inserting them into sun-synchronous or polar orbits.“It is our ethos to invest in exceptional entrepreneurs with bold visions,” said Jimmy Fussing Nielsen, Managing Partner of Sunstone Technology Ventures. “Behind the scenes, Orbex has made huge strides forward over the past three years, reaching a level of technical and commercial sophistication that is surprising for a young company. This explains why Orbex has been able to attract such high-profile public and private backers, as well as experienced team members. Just out of stealth mode, Orbex is already well on its way to becoming the leading private space launch company in Europe.”Minimising the environmental impact of launches was a key consideration in the rocket’s design. Prime is a low-mass and low-carbon launcher, using a single renewable fuel, bio-propane, that cuts carbon emissions by 90% compared to old-fashioned hydrocarbon fuels. The rocket uses a novel zero-shock staging system called Magic, which leaves zero orbital debris. It also features a novel reusability concept, with an innovative new low mass recovery and reflight system.“It was clear to us from the start that Orbex had the potential to disrupt and fundamentally improve the satellite launch market in Europe and beyond,” said Yann Fiebig, Senior Investment Manager at the High-Tech Gründerfonds. “The company has made rapid progress, taking their innovations from concept to reality in short order. Their very strong management team deserves full credit for its ability to execute and we look forward to being part of their positive disruption over the coming months and years.”Orbex has already secured commercial engagements with major aerospace organisations. The European Space Agency has contracted Orbex to study the development of a European micro launcher solution. Also, an engagement with a leading European aerospace company will be announced on Tuesday 17th July.Jean-Jacques Dordain, the former Director General of the European Space Agency has joined Orbex as Chairman of the Advisory Board. He is joined by other notable figures from the space industry, including Jan Skolmli, Orbex’s recently-appointed Chief Commercial Officer, who was formerly Head of Launch at SSTL, the world’s leading small satellite manufacturer. Orbex staff members have professional backgrounds with NASA, ESA and several other commercial spaceflight organisations. Equipment developed by Orbex team members has flown on more than 50 deep space missions, and collectively they have developed more than 50 rocket engines and a wide range of orbital and suborbital launch vehicles.“Orbex is one of the very few private spaceflight companies whose staff have credible, practical experience in the development of micro-launch vehicles and rocket engines,” commented Chris Larmour, Orbex CEO. “With our collective experience, we have developed a low mass, low carbon, high performance 21st century orbital launch vehicle, designed specifically to support the needs of the rapidly growing smallsat industry. There is a significant launch backlog for small satellites globally and Orbex is primed to give industry and science a cost-effective, reliable and responsive route into space, directly from Europe.”Further technical and commercial announcements will follow during the Farnborough Airshow 2018.
Orbex is constructing a two-stage-to-orbit vertical micro-launch vehicle named Prime. Prime will use a new kind of coaxial tank solution to reduce vehicle mass by as much as 30% over traditional designs.
QuoteIt also features a novel reusability concept, with an innovative new low mass recovery and reflight system.
It also features a novel reusability concept, with an innovative new low mass recovery and reflight system.
Are there advantages that propane would have over other propellants or is the "low carbon" descriptor the only reason they would have chosen to use it?Would anyone have the knowledge to say what kind of picture it paints to have propane as a propellant in this vehicle and if we could begin to guess what the performance of the engines could be?
Propane is unusual in that it will not freeze solid if put in tanks in thermalcontact with LOX tanks; it has been proposed therefore to use sub-cooledpropane. Sub-cooled propane (at LOX temperatures or slightly above to account for imperfect chilling of propane by adjacent LOX tanks) is a winner, with a bulkdensity nearly the same as that of RP-1, and a superior Isp. Tank Fuel Bulk Vac. Temp Formula MR Dens. Dens. Tc Isp K O/F kg/m^3 kg/m^3 K 100:1NON-HYDROCARBONShydrogen, NBP 20 H2 6.0 70 358 3610 455.9ALKANESmethane, NBP 112 CH4 3.0 423 801 3589 368.3propane, 100K 100 C3H8 2.7 782 1014 3734 361.9RP-1, RT 298 C12H24 2.5 820 1026 3803 354.6
Tank Fuel Bulk Vac. Temp Formula MR Dens. Dens. Tc Isp K O/F kg/m^3 kg/m^3 K 100:1NON-HYDROCARBONShydrogen, NBP 20 H2 6.0 70 358 3610 455.9ALKANESmethane, NBP 112 CH4 3.0 423 801 3589 368.3propane, 100K 100 C3H8 2.7 782 1014 3734 361.9RP-1, RT 298 C12H24 2.5 820 1026 3803 354.6
More details on their site.http://orbex.space/news/orbex-secures-30-million-funding-for-uk-space-launch-vehiclesQuoteMinimising the environmental impact of launches was a key consideration in the rocket’s design. Prime is a low-mass and low-carbon launcher, using a single renewable fuel, bio-propane, that cuts carbon emissions by 90% compared to old-fashioned hydrocarbon fuels. The rocket uses a novel zero-shock staging system called Magic, which leaves zero orbital debris. It also features a novel reusability concept, with an innovative new low mass recovery and reflight system.
Minimising the environmental impact of launches was a key consideration in the rocket’s design. Prime is a low-mass and low-carbon launcher, using a single renewable fuel, bio-propane, that cuts carbon emissions by 90% compared to old-fashioned hydrocarbon fuels. The rocket uses a novel zero-shock staging system called Magic, which leaves zero orbital debris. It also features a novel reusability concept, with an innovative new low mass recovery and reflight system.
Would anyone have the knowledge to say what kind of picture it paints to have propane as a propellant in this vehicle and if we could begin to guess what the performance of the engines could be?
Comparison of kerolox, methalox and propalox.Propellants MR dp (kg/L) ve (m/s) Id (Ns/L)O2/CH4 3.6 0.8376 3656 3062O2/C3H8 3.1 0.9304 3613 3362O2/RP–1 2.8 1.0307 3554 3663HTP/RP–1 7.3 1.3059 3223 4209Propalox is basically between methalox and kerolox. Has better Isp than kerolox, but worse then methalox. Density is however better than methalox, but worse than kerolox. Impulse density is better than methalox, but worse than kerolox. I've also added my favourite combination, keroxide, which has the worst Isp, but the best impulse density, making it a great first stage propellant.
Most people are aware that Methane can be made through anaerobic digestion but AFAIK Propane is the only other short chain hydrocarbon that can be made with bacteria. I'm guessing it's good compatability with LOX (with some sub cooling) made it the fuel of choice.
Flexible cryogen bag tanks are apparently a thing, so tension anchoring the thing in the LOx tank is certainly doable.
Orbex and Elecnor Deimos Form Strategic Partnership for Satellite LaunchesElecnor Deimos Invests in Orbex; Orbex Selected as Preferred Supplier of Launch Services for Elecnor Deimos Satellites; Elecnor Deimos to Become Orbex’s Preferred Supplier of Critical Launch Systems Including GNC
Well the Twitter page disclosed it's LPG (Propane/Butane)Interestingly, they are stating on their website that the ignition system has no moving parts or "electrics". Wonder how they would actuate valves without both of those.
...In a July 16 interview during the Farnborough International Airshow, Orbex Chief Executive Chris Larmour declined to go into the terms of the investments, including how much funding came from the various sources. He said that the funding, which he described as roughly equivalent to a Series A round, covered more than half of the estimated $70–75 million cost to develop the company’s Prime small launch vehicle. “It gets us a good way along the track to first launch,” he said.That funding, he said, allows Orbex to stand out from the dozens of small launch vehicle efforts underway worldwide. “There are about 80 projects out there talking about building a small launcher,” he said. “But when you filter them on who has assets to do something, who has experience and understanding of the problem, who’s making progress, it’s a much smaller number: a handful of companies. I think Orbex, with this announcement, has joined that family.”...One key aspect of propane is that it remains liquid at cryogenic temperatures. That enabled a “coaxial tank” design for Prime where a central tube of propane is surrounded by an outer tank of liquid oxygen, creating structural mass savings in the rocket. The specific impulse — a measure of efficiency — of propane is also slightly higher than RP-1, he added. “That’s a good combination for this class of launcher.”Orbex has been testing engines that use that propellant combination while working on the overall design of the rocket and other subsystems, like avionics. The company has about 15 employees now, but Larmour said he expects that headcount to double in three to four months and reach 40 or more by early 2019. The company plans to construct a factory for Prime in Scotland that will eventually employ 150....Other than the Elecnor Deimos announcement, Orbex has not announced any customers for Prime, whose first launch from Scotland is expected in the second half of 2021. Larmour said he thinks the business case for Prime will focus more on providing convenience to European customers rather than on low price.“One of the core differentiators for our company is that we’re based geographically in Europe,” he said. That should be attractive, he believed, to European satellite developers, who would not have to deal with logistical and regulatory hassles with launching their satellites outside Europe. “There’s willingness to look at solutions that are a little bit easier to access in time and space, and the price point may not be as sensitive an issue.” Larmour declined to give an estimated launch price for the vehicle.He added in a July 18 presentation at a U.K. Space Agency launch workshop held at the air show that he was not interested in competing head-to-head with U.S.-based launch vehicles. “Perhaps unusually, we’re focused on a very international market,” he said. “There are a lot of competitors in the United States of America. We’re happy for them to compete with each other, and we’ll focus on Europe.”