Author Topic: Orbex  (Read 12781 times)

Offline ringsider

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Orbex
« on: 07/11/2017 02:26 pm »
Orbex wins Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Grant for Space Launch Vehicle Tanks

London, 11 July 2017: Orbex, the UK-based developer of launch vehicles and services for small satellites, has won a prestigious European Commission Horizon 2020 SME Instrument award.

The grant was awarded to assist in the development of an innovative space launch vehicle fuel tank architecture developed by Orbex, which reduces the dry mass of launch vehicles by as much as 30% compared to traditional technologies.

“It’s a welcome validation of our innovative, patent-pending structural technology and a confirmation that we are addressing a really significant problem with a globally-relevant market opportunity,” said Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex. “Orbex engineers have already developed functional prototypes of the system, complete with cryogenic cooling systems and instrumentation, and we’re confident it works.”

With 2,030 entrants in the cohort, the SME Instrument awards are exceptionally competitive, and only 7 companies across Europe were awarded a space-related grant in the same period. Orbex is one of the first UK space sector companies to win an SME Instrument award.

“This kind of technology is really crucial in vehicles of this class, where every extra kilogram makes a difference to efficiency and performance,” said Kristian von Bengtson, Orbex CTO. “We’ve carefully studied several options and designed a solution that is really elegant and simple to execute, but that also delivers an enormous benefit in terms of mass and complexity reduction.”

The SME Instrument programme is designed to assist internationally-oriented SMEs in implementing high-risk and high-potential innovation ideas. It aims at supporting projects with a European dimension that lead to major changes in how business is done.

Orbex recently announced an investment by one of Europe’s largest VC funds, as well as the existence of a large rocket vehicle production facility that had previously been kept under wraps.

--

They write a nice press release but where are the pictures that prove they are actually doing stuff?
« Last Edit: 03/22/2018 07:40 pm by ringsider »

Offline ringsider

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Re: Orbex wins some money for tanks
« Reply #1 on: 07/17/2017 07:12 pm »
Another article on Orbex in the UK press:-

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/scotland/all-systems-go-for-second-launch-bid-at-spaceport-rv0ztx6r0

--

They are being quite coy with images, but I wonder if they have actually been doing stuff?

This image seems to indicate some real worid work going on - my spidey sense says they have cropped it deliberately to hide some details, especially the size:-



And the title of that image is "Engine-Detail.jpg"...
« Last Edit: 11/22/2017 04:38 pm by Chris Bergin »

Offline ringsider

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #2 on: 09/03/2017 03:25 pm »
« Last Edit: 09/03/2017 03:42 pm by ringsider »

Offline ringsider

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #3 on: 10/04/2017 01:02 pm »
There are some new operations-type photos on Twitter: @orbexspace



They are very careful not to show anything "real" in public, but you can see that image has been cropped - I suspect there is something interesting to the left of that truck, near that fence.
« Last Edit: 10/04/2017 01:03 pm by ringsider »

Offline savuporo

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #4 on: 10/08/2017 07:21 pm »
https://twitter.com/orbexspace/status/917006401867837440

Quote
1st public presentation of Orbex tech will be at the Royal Aeronautical Society President's Conference on 22/11/17
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Offline ringsider

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #5 on: 10/16/2017 11:47 am »
Another cryptic post to Twitter. Looks like a tank at the bottom of the image?

https://twitter.com/orbexspace/status/919536482179846144


« Last Edit: 10/16/2017 06:49 pm by ringsider »

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #6 on: 11/22/2017 01:32 pm »
https://twitter.com/orbexspace/status/917006401867837440

Quote
1st public presentation of Orbex tech will be at the Royal Aeronautical Society President's Conference on 22/11/17

Quote
Chris Larmour, Orbex: developing a launch vehicle capable of delivering 165 kg into sun-synchronous orbit. Been working quietly last few years, in process of closing a 4th round of funding. #Space17

https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/933341441669115904
« Last Edit: 11/22/2017 01:34 pm by FutureSpaceTourist »

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #7 on: 11/22/2017 01:38 pm »
Quote
Larmour says this is the first time there’s been a public presentation on the company. Still holding some details close, like the fuel the vehicle uses or spaceport they’re considering. #Space17

https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/933343414371913728

Edits to addL

Quote
Larmour: have a number of letters of intent, but hope to sign first launch contract for a 50-kg science payload, by year’s end. #Space17

https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/933343930044878848

Quote
Larmour: won’t name the fuel we’re using, but not RP-1 or methane; doesn’t freeze at LOX temperatures. #Space17

https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/933344717223485440
« Last Edit: 11/22/2017 01:42 pm by FutureSpaceTourist »

Offline envy887

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #8 on: 11/22/2017 02:04 pm »
Quote
Larmour: won’t name the fuel we’re using, but not RP-1 or methane; doesn’t freeze at LOX temperatures. #Space17

https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/933344717223485440

There are a several short-chain hydrocarbons that fit this description: Propane, Propene, Ethane, Ethene, and 1-Butene.

Propane is the cheapest, offers the best performance with LOX (when subcooled), and can be stored at room temperatures, so that seems most likely to me.

Offline Davidthefat

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #9 on: 11/22/2017 02:23 pm »
Is there any reason to not disclose the propellants they are using? Seems like an unnecessary detail to keep secret.

Offline Craftyatom

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #10 on: 11/22/2017 04:35 pm »
Is there any reason to not disclose the propellants they are using? Seems like an unnecessary detail to keep secret.
It's somewhat related to their tank structure, which (if the press release from July 11th is to be believed) has dry mass savings up to 30%, which is a big deal.  If they're working with a novel process that relies on the fuel type, then keeping it secret might help keep the tank design secret as well.

All baseless speculation, obviously, but that's par for the course when we have so few details :P
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Offline ringsider

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Is there any reason to not disclose the propellants they are using? Seems like an unnecessary detail to keep secret.
It's somewhat related to their tank structure, which (if the press release from July 11th is to be believed) has dry mass savings up to 30%, which is a big deal.  If they're working with a novel process that relies on the fuel type, then keeping it secret might help keep the tank design secret as well.

All baseless speculation, obviously, but that's par for the course when we have so few details
Engine image from Twitter:-

https://twitter.com/RAeSTimR/status/933344493612556288

Looks like a copper heat sink.
« Last Edit: 11/22/2017 04:55 pm by ringsider »

Offline Craftyatom

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Is there any reason to not disclose the propellants they are using? Seems like an unnecessary detail to keep secret.
It's somewhat related to their tank structure, which (if the press release from July 11th is to be believed) has dry mass savings up to 30%, which is a big deal.  If they're working with a novel process that relies on the fuel type, then keeping it secret might help keep the tank design secret as well.

All baseless speculation, obviously, but that's par for the course when we have so few details
Engine image from Twitter:-

https://twitter.com/RAeSTimR/status/933344493612556288

Looks like a copper heat sink.
Copied over the high-res image if anyone wants a peek.

I'm guessing the copper is a housing for their cooling system (regen?) rather than an actual heat sink itself, but similar deal.  Also, it could be a diffuser for testing vacuum engines, though I doubt it with that test setup.
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Offline john smith 19

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So was anyone at the RAS presentation last night?
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP stainless steel structured booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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 ??? Could Orbex have been testing their engine at Copenhagen Suborbitals?
I think from last year onward a commercial program used the engine stands of Copenhagen suborbitals to test a new engine.

Source: https://twitter.com/RAeSTimR/status/933343225393373184
« Last Edit: 11/24/2017 08:04 am by Rik ISS-fan »

Offline STS-200

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I'm guessing the copper is a housing for their cooling system (regen?) rather than an actual heat sink itself, but similar deal.  Also, it could be a diffuser for testing vacuum engines, though I doubt it with that test setup.

To me, it appears to be a solid heatsink with sets of thermocouples. Not a practical engine, but a good way of testing heat flows, ignition techniques, injectors and possibly combustion stability. A block that size that should be able to run for a couple of seconds.
There is no reason to put a cooling system in a housing, it just makes it heavier
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Offline ChrisWilson68

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It's refreshing to see a small launcher start-up doing more and talking less, as we've had so many lately that seem to do the opposite.

Offline Nomic

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Wonder if this is a spin off from KUPG?

Offline john smith 19

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To me, it appears to be a solid heatsink with sets of thermocouples. Not a practical engine, but a good way of testing heat flows, ignition techniques, injectors and possibly combustion stability. A block that size that should be able to run for a couple of seconds.
There is no reason to put a cooling system in a housing, it just makes it heavier
Heatsink engines basically rely on the heat capacity of block of metal they are made out of, hence usually copper.

Being fairly simple to construct they are quick (certainly with modern CNC) to make and good to gather data fairly quickly. You don't get bogged down spending money and time developing the test equipment (IE the engine) rather than the thing you want the information to design in the first place. Adding more sensors is a question of drilling more holes, as there are few if any cooling pipes to get in the way.

1-3 secs may not sound long but this stuff can reach steady state very quickly. That's usually the interesting stuff you want to know about (so you need a lot of fast sensors and plenty of storage, a much easier issue than it was in days past. Beyond that it's just "more of the the same" be it 1 second or 1 minute or 1 hour.
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP stainless steel structured booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline Star One

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More coverage here including an interview with the chief executive  Chris Larmour.

http://spacenews.com/british-company-reveals-details-about-its-smallsat-launch-vehicle/

Offline ringsider

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #20 on: 03/22/2018 07:42 pm »
« Last Edit: 03/23/2018 03:20 pm by ringsider »

Offline Dao Angkan

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #21 on: 07/16/2018 02:04 pm »
More details on their site.

http://orbex.space/news/orbex-secures-30-million-funding-for-uk-space-launch-vehicles

Quote
Orbex Secures £30 Million Funding for UK Space Launch Vehicles

Rockets to Launch Small Satellites into Orbit from UK Spaceport Using Renewable Fuel

Farnborough, 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.

Offline Hick2

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #22 on: 07/16/2018 02:44 pm »
The thing I'm most curious about in regards to "Prime" is the use of propane as propellant, while I know that amateur rocketry sees propane (gaseous) used often enough, I can't say I've heard of it being used in an orbital system before.

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?

Offline GreenShrike

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #23 on: 07/16/2018 05:30 pm »
Orbex also won a "Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Grant for Space Launch Vehicle Tanks" ( http://orbex.space/news/orbex-wins-horizon-2020-sme-instrument-grant-for-space-launch-vehicle-tanks ).

From the report summary ( https://cordis.europa.eu/result/rcn/205191_en.html ) attached to what appears to be their application for the award ( https://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/207963_en.html ):

Quote
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.


I read "coaxial" as a sort of tank-in-tank design with, say, a 1x-metre propane tank enclosed by a 1.5x metre LOX tank. I think that would explain why they need a fuel that won't freeze at LOX temps.

If only the outer LOX tank needed to bear structural loads and the inner propane tank just needed nothing more than to physically separate that fuel from the LOX with no thought to insulation, might that account for the 30% mass savings?

If the inner tank was even inflatable like a bladder or balloon within the LOX, might a single pressurization system suffice for both propellants?

I'm probably way out in left field, but it would certainly be "different". ;-)
« Last Edit: 07/16/2018 11:18 pm by GreenShrike »
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Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #24 on: 07/16/2018 05:47 pm »
Quote
It also features a novel reusability concept, with an innovative new low mass recovery and reflight system.

I'm most interested in hearing about this.

The fact that they bury this in a single sentence deep in the press release makes me think they're going with an expendable system first, then a longer-term plan to eventually do some reuse, though it's unclear exactly which parts of the launcher they aim to refly.
« Last Edit: 07/16/2018 05:48 pm by ChrisWilson68 »

Offline GreenShrike

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #25 on: 07/16/2018 05:49 pm »
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?

Well, straight from the Dunn fuel table ( https://yarchive.net/space/rocket/fuels/fuel_table.html ) :

Quote from: Bruce Dunn
Propane is unusual in that it will not freeze solid if put in tanks in thermal
contact with LOX tanks; it has been proposed therefore to use sub-cooled
propane.

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 bulk
density 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    100:1

NON-HYDROCARBONS
hydrogen, NBP          20 H2        6.0    70    358   3610  455.9

ALKANES
methane, NBP          112 CH4       3.0   423    801   3589  368.3
propane, 100K         100 C3H8      2.7   782   1014   3734  361.9
RP-1, RT              298 C12H24    2.5   820   1026   3803  354.6



So, as previously said, better ISP than kerolox with about the same density. Methalox has better ISP but worse density, so the tanks need to be bigger WRT RP-1, and it's a bit of a wash. Propalox (?) is more of a straight win.


I don't really get "low carbon", unless it refers to RP-1's C12H24 formulation with two hydrogen per carbon, versus propane's C3H8 which has more hydrogen at ~2.67 per carbon, so burning propane gets you more water and less carbon dioxide.

Methane, though, is even better at 4 per carbon (which is why it has higher ISP than either), so they could toot the 'low carbon' horn even harder using methane, so I think it's more advertising than something they really care about.
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Offline Davidthefat

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #26 on: 07/16/2018 06:27 pm »
If it is indeed propane, I think the reason for not disclosing the actual propellant is to improve image to the public. Perhaps they feel that stating such a common household product as their propellant won't help bolster their image as a sophisticated rocket company, regardless of their engineering insight behind it. It's not uncommon for companies to do that though.

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #27 on: 07/16/2018 09:03 pm »
More details on their site.

http://orbex.space/news/orbex-secures-30-million-funding-for-uk-space-launch-vehicles

Quote
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.
Emphasis mine.

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.

"co-axial tanks" do sound like a tube-within-a-tube design. The nearest I'm aware of is the Saturn 1, with it's ring of tanks around the core tank. This sounds quite stiff, provided people are OK with the close proximity  of fuel and oxidizer.
« Last Edit: 07/17/2018 05:30 pm by john smith 19 »
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP stainless steel structured booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline Steven Pietrobon

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #28 on: 07/17/2018 06:31 am »
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     3062
O2/C3H8      3.1   0.9304     3613     3362
O2/RP–1      2.8   1.0307     3554     3663
HTP/RP–1     7.3   1.3059     3223     4209


Propalox 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.
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Offline Asteroza

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #29 on: 07/17/2018 09:15 am »
Flexible cryogen bag tanks are apparently a thing, so tension anchoring the thing in the LOx tank is certainly doable.

Offline Chris Bergin

Re: Orbex
« Reply #30 on: 07/17/2018 09:29 am »
Orbex and Elecnor Deimos Form Strategic Partnership for Satellite Launches

 

Elecnor 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

 

Farnborough, UK, July 17, 2018 – Following the announcement of Orbex’s £30 million funding round for the development of an orbital space launch system, Elecnor Deimos and Orbex have announced that the two companies have strengthened their relationship: Elecnor Deimos has acquired a stake in Orbex and both companies have signed a strategic agreement, building on previous collaborations between the two companies when successfully bidding together in UK and international tenders.

 

Under the terms of the agreement, Orbex will become the preferred supplier of all launch services required to place Elecnor Deimos satellites into orbit.  Elecnor Deimos will likewise become the preferred supplier of various critical launch systems required to develop and operate the Orbex launcher system, including the Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) system.

 

Recently emerging from stealth mode, Orbex is a UK-based spaceflight company, with subsidiaries and production facilities in Denmark and Germany.  The company 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.  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.

 

Elecnor Deimos will contribute with its expertise to the development of the Orbex launcher in areas including:

-       Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) including algorithms, software, test benches and validation and verification processes.

-       Mission Analysis, Mission Engineering and System Engineering, including flight dynamics, safety range and launcher performance.

-       Ground Segment Systems, including Command and Control Center, Ground Support Equipment, ranging systems and ground stations.

 

“Orbex's partnership with Elecnor Deimos is significant for us on a number of levels,” said Chris Larmour, Orbex CEO.  “It demonstrates that as well as technological maturity, we have achieved a milestone in business maturity, where we are already in a position to become the preferred launch partner for an organisation as significant as Elecnor Deimos.  It also helps us maintain our accelerated pace of development, as we are able to incorporate tried-and-tested critical launch systems from Elecnor Deimos ranging from navigation to ground and mission control systems.”

 

“The huge potential of Orbex quickly became clear to Elecnor Deimos, which is why we became both an investor in the company as well as a strategic partner,” commented Miguel Belló Mora, CEO, Elecnor Deimos.  “By using a number of our advanced navigation and mission support systems, Orbex is leaping ahead in its ability to safely and efficiently execute small satellite launches in the near future.  This in turn helps Elecnor Deimos as it gives us access to innovative and efficient launch vehicles, which will be launching from several sites within Europe.”

 

The smallsat launch market is projected to grow strongly to around $60 billion between 2018-2030, with a strong shift towards more international satellite operators. More than 30 commercial consortia are currrently building smallsats constellations, with almost 12,000 satellites expected to be launched by 2030. Each satellite has a life expectancy of 3-5 years, creating a strong ongoing demand for upgrade and replenishment.

 

"There is a quiet revolution taking place, thanks to small satellites,” said Bart Markus, Orbex’s Chairman.  “Smallsats are now able to perform a huge range of tasks at very low cost, making them a smart choice for satellite operators both commercially and logistically.  But there is currently a huge bottleneck in getting them delivered into orbit, which means that satellite operators’ revenues are being delayed.  With Orbex, international smallsat operators now have access to a new class of launch service which which was designed exclusively to serve their needs.  We intend to relieve the smallsat bottleneck so that satellite operators have a reliable, long-term solution for orbital access.”

 

Offline GreenShrike

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #31 on: 07/17/2018 07:07 pm »
Comparison of kerolox, methalox and propalox.

Propellants  MR   dp (kg/L)  ve (m/s) Id (Ns/L)
O2/CH4       3.6   0.8376     3656     3062
O2/C3H8      3.1   0.9304     3613     3362
O2/RP–1      2.8   1.0307     3554     3663
HTP/RP–1     7.3   1.3059     3223     4209


Propalox 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.


Using a density for LOX of 1.14 kg/L, I make your density of propane as being ~0.593 kg/L, which is close to its density at propane's boiling point. However, I believe the point of Orbex choosing propane as a propellant in the first place has to do with it remaining liquid even at LOX temperatures.

Using Dunn's figure of .782 kg/L for propane at 100K (-173C), and your mixture ratio of 3.1 for LOX+propane, I make the density of the propellant as being ~1.02 kg/L. With your exhaust velocity, sub-cooled propane's impulse density is then a smidge higher than RP-1's.


Propellants    MR    dp (kg/L) ve (m/s) Id (Ns/L)
O2/CH4         3.6    0.8376    3656    3062
O2/C3H8 NBP    3.1    0.9304    3613    3362
O2/C3H8 100K   3.1    1.0261    3613    3707
O2/RP-1        2.8    1.0307    3554    3663
HTP/RP-1       7.3    1.3059    3223    4209


While a tank-in-tank coaxial design might not permit them to use a more widely used fuel, the RP1-like impulse density of sub-cooled propane means they are hardly suffering for their choice.

Interestingly, keroxide is likely also suitable for a coaxial design, with both HTP and RP-1 being room-temperature propellants. I wonder if they considered it at all?

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.

Though they can't just build Sabatier reactors powered by solar cells and claim to be green like methane users can, if their 'bio-propane' is indeed microbially generated, then it's much the same thing, if rather more biologically exotic. And, no doubt, mucky. ;-)

I just wonder how much their propane costs compared to what's in my BBQ's tank? Good thing propellant costs are but a small fraction of total launch costs... :-)

Flexible cryogen bag tanks are apparently a thing, so tension anchoring the thing in the LOx tank is certainly doable.

Interesting -- thanks for the info. Maybe it wasn't such a crazy idea. :-)
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Offline ringsider

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #32 on: 07/20/2018 06:10 pm »
Orbex and Elecnor Deimos Form Strategic Partnership for Satellite Launches

Elecnor 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

Hmm. It's quite interesting that they managed to get this level of investment and commercial traction while keeping so far under the radar. That would indicate they have done more (to convince those investors / partners) than they are making public - several images on Twitter hint at AM engines, large carbon tanks.

Offline Davidthefat

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #33 on: 07/20/2018 06:27 pm »
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.

Online Gliderflyer

Re: Orbex
« Reply #34 on: 07/20/2018 10:08 pm »
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.
It all depends on where you draw the dotted line that divides "igniter" from "igniter feed system". My personal guess is it is some form of acoustic resonance igniter, but I have nothing to back that up.
I tried it at home

Offline Dao Angkan

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #35 on: 07/20/2018 11:46 pm »
Orbex stakes claim to European smallsat launch market

Quote
...

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.”

Offline ringsider

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #36 on: 07/21/2018 07:39 am »
https://twitter.com/orbexspace/status/1019468219319574528

Great to welcome the Elecnor Deimos investment in Orbex, with an additional preferred supplier agreement for up to 20 launches of the Orbex vehicle.

What??? 20 launches.... holy cow, talk about burying the lead...

Offline SciNews

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #37 on: 10/15/2018 07:11 pm »
Chris Larmour (Orbex CEO) interviewed in BBC The Sky at Night - Space Britannia https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bntqjf
Main points:
- building a small space launch vehicle to take small satellites into lower Earth orbits;
- the rocket is 17 metres tall and about 1.3 metres in diameter;
- uses propane (biopropane) as the core fuel, which helps save about 30% of the mass of the vehicle;
- factory in Copenhagen building engines, tanks and avionics; planning a new factory in Scotland;
- first launch around 2021, late 2021.

Offline ringsider

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #38 on: 10/22/2018 02:29 pm »
Orbex are showing some carbon fiber on Twitter:-

https://twitter.com/orbexspace/status/1052996275568893955
« Last Edit: 10/22/2018 02:32 pm by ringsider »

Offline vhbmsp

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #39 on: 12/12/2018 09:08 pm »
Deimos and Orbex presented AZμL, a service to launch from the Azores islands using the Orbex prime vehicle

Full presentation:

http://esamultimedia.esa.int/docs/space_transportation/AZUL-ESA_Workshop-Export.pdf







Offline ringsider

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Offline Kryten

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #41 on: 01/28/2019 01:46 pm »
https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/moray/1663847/rocket-manufacturing-soon-to-take-off-in-moray/?utm_source=twitter
Quote
Private spaceflight company Orbex has bought a vacant building on Forres Enterprise Park and started a recruitment drive for highly specialised engineers.
[...]
The Forres facility, which will be Orbex’s headquarters, is due to be officially opened next month at an event attended by Graham Turnock, head of the UK Space Agency.
Presumably this is the 7th February event they've be teasing on Twitter

Offline ringsider

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #42 on: 01/29/2019 06:58 am »
https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/moray/1663847/rocket-manufacturing-soon-to-take-off-in-moray/?utm_source=twitter
Quote
Private spaceflight company Orbex has bought a vacant building on Forres Enterprise Park and started a recruitment drive for highly specialised engineers.
[...]
The Forres facility, which will be Orbex’s headquarters, is due to be officially opened next month at an event attended by Graham Turnock, head of the UK Space Agency.
Presumably this is the 7th February event they've be teasing on Twitter
It's interesting how these guys just stay mostly silent but apparently still make progress - in this story purchasing a factory etc. - but even in this news piece  the management declined to comment. It's the complete opposite of most others out there. They really keep fairly silent on tech developments, which is either suspicious or clever - not yet sure which.

Also they are quite good at trolling - on Twitter they recently posted pictures of a sofa and new carpets, where others post engines or whatever. It's a different approach for sure.
« Last Edit: 01/29/2019 06:59 am by ringsider »

Online gongora

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #43 on: 01/29/2019 12:46 pm »
It's interesting how these guys just stay mostly silent but apparently still make progress - in this story purchasing a factory etc. - but even in this news piece  the management declined to comment. It's the complete opposite of most others out there. They really keep fairly silent on tech developments, which is either suspicious or clever - not yet sure which.

There are a bunch of companies acting like this (in both launcher and satellite development), we just tend to focus on the ones that are being vocal.
« Last Edit: 01/29/2019 12:46 pm by gongora »

Offline Stevenzop

Re: Orbex
« Reply #44 on: 01/29/2019 02:58 pm »
https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/moray/1663847/rocket-manufacturing-soon-to-take-off-in-moray/?utm_source=twitter
Quote
Private spaceflight company Orbex has bought a vacant building on Forres Enterprise Park and started a recruitment drive for highly specialised engineers.
[...]
The Forres facility, which will be Orbex’s headquarters, is due to be officially opened next month at an event attended by Graham Turnock, head of the UK Space Agency.
Presumably this is the 7th February event they've be teasing on Twitter

Interesting... Forres is just up the road from me. Never thought I'd see the day a rocket factory would pop up in north east Scotland! I wonder if they need anyone to make cups of tea and sweep the floor...

Offline ringsider

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #45 on: 01/29/2019 04:55 pm »
It's interesting how these guys just stay mostly silent but apparently still make progress - in this story purchasing a factory etc. - but even in this news piece  the management declined to comment. It's the complete opposite of most others out there. They really keep fairly silent on tech developments, which is either suspicious or clever - not yet sure which.

There are a bunch of companies acting like this (in both launcher and satellite development), we just tend to focus on the ones that are being vocal.
Astra, maybe ABL.... Who else?
« Last Edit: 01/29/2019 04:56 pm by ringsider »

Offline Chris Bergin

Re: Orbex
« Reply #46 on: 02/07/2019 05:24 pm »
Awesome news:

ARTICLE: Orbex reveals Prime’s second stage as it prepares for UK domestic launches -

https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2019/02/orbex-primes-second-stage-uk-launches/

https://twitter.com/NASASpaceflight/status/1093575933980798976

Offline Nomic

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #47 on: 02/07/2019 07:42 pm »
As per presentation from December, 2nd stage is pressure fed.

Nozzle extension to 3d printed chamber looks welded.

https://mobile.twitter.com/Astro_Jonny/status/1093559574697779200

Online HMXHMX

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #48 on: 02/10/2019 09:41 pm »
As per presentation from December, 2nd stage is pressure fed.

Nozzle extension to 3d printed chamber looks welded.

https://mobile.twitter.com/Astro_Jonny/status/1093559574697779200

One of the most impressive things about this is that the TVC actuators are holding up the engine on one side and the rest of the stage on the other. These guys have been busy doing real work.

Those are (seemingly commercial) electric ball-screw actuators (small second stages have low-rate TVC requirements, generally) and I doubt that stage masses even 1000 lbs.  So not that hard to do.

Online Tywin

Re: Orbex
« Reply #49 on: 02/13/2019 03:52 am »
Orbex, sign a contract with SSTL for launch a demonstrators, satellite in 2021:


Quote
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.”

https://spacewatch.global/2019/02/british-new-space-orbex-space-to-launch-sstl-payload-from-scotland-in-2021/
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Online Gliderflyer

Re: Orbex
« Reply #50 on: 02/13/2019 04:32 am »
Their engine has an interesting igniter setup. Looking at this image, there are some solenoid valves that tap off of the LOX and fuel main valves and feed into what looks like a torch igniter (or two, based on the tees in the lines). There is an apparent lack of a spark plug and they claim no "electrics" in the igniter, so I'm still guessing it is an acoustic igniter. There are also some interesting bumps on the side of the igniter body; they must have some very interesting internals in that part.
I tried it at home

Offline Cheapchips

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #51 on: 02/15/2019 03:51 pm »
I read "coaxial" as a sort of tank-in-tank design with, say, a 1x-metre propane tank enclosed by a 1.5x metre LOX tank. I think that would explain why they need a fuel that won't freeze at LOX temps.

If only the outer LOX tank needed to bear structural loads and the inner propane tank just needed nothing more than to physically separate that fuel from the LOX with no thought to insulation, might that account for the 30% mass savings?

If the inner tank was even inflatable like a bladder or balloon within the LOX, might a single pressurization system suffice for both propellants?

I'm probably way out in left field, but it would certainly be "different". ;-)

The interplanetary podcast had an interview with Orbex CEO Chris Larmour this week.  Interesting stuff in there.

https://www.interplanetary.org.uk/single-post/2019/02/15/120-Orbex-Special

He talked a bit about the coaxial tank. The LOX is acting as a cooling jacket for the propane tank.  They don't need a separate cooling system. The propane is densified, so end up 2% more
'powerful' in Lamours words. 

As well as structural weight, the coaxial tank is saving on plumbing weight, since it sits on the base of the LOX tank.

The turbopump runs at a relatively low temperature, so they can use automotive grade metal in their 3d printing.

They are also looking at some sort of engine recovery.
They won't use parachutes so not sure what they're planning.


Offline PM3

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Re: Orbex
« Reply #52 on: 02/17/2019 01:19 pm »
This is how it began:

- Copenhagen Suborbitals by Danish Peter Madsen and Kristian von Bengtson

- Project 'Moonspike' by Chris Larmour and Kristian von Bengtson. They planned a crowdfunded two-stage alcohol-fueled rocket that should crash a capsule into the Moon. (Crowdfunding failed.)

Chris Larmour now is Orbex CEO, von Bengtson is CTO. Prime engines still developed and tested in Denmark.

=> New German WP article: Prime (Rakete)


Btw, there is some confusion where the engines are manufactured. Some sources say Denmark, others Germany or both countries. It's true that the 3D Printer - an SLM-800 - is made in Germany, but I can hardly beleive that SLM also makes the engine parts. Sounds like a confusion of printer and engine manufacturers. Does someone know it for sure?
« Last Edit: 02/17/2019 06:48 pm by PM3 »

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