WASHINGTON — Orbex, a company based in the United Kingdom developing a small launch vehicle, has raised $20.8 million to “ramp up” work on its long-delayed rocket.

Orbex announced April 18 it raised 16.7 million pounds ($20.8 million) as an extension to a Series C round in 2022 that raised 40 million pounds. A majority of the new funds, 10.5 million pounds, came from existing investor Scottish National Investment Bank, with contributions from venture capital firms Octopus Ventures, BGF and Heartcore as well as the Export and Investment Fund of Denmark, among others.

Orbex is developing Prime, a small launch vehicle capable of placing up to 180 kilograms into low Earth orbit, launching from Sutherland Spaceport in northern Scotland. Prime has yet to launch and its development has suffered extensive delays. The company said in 2019 a first launch was planned for late 2021, which by late 2020 had slipped to 2022 and, in 2022, to some time in 2023.

In its announcement of the new funding, Orbex did not disclose a projected date for the first flight of Prime. A company spokesperson told SpaceNews April 19 that the company had not set a date yet.

One factor in the timing of the launch is the ongoing construction of Spaceport Sutherland, which Nicola Douglas, executive director of innovation at the Scottish National Investment Bank, indicated would be completed this year. “This follow-on investment comes at an exciting time as Orbex expands its manufacturing and looks to complete its Sutherland Spaceport this year,” she said in a statement.

Orbex has also undergone upheaval in its leadership. The company’s founding chief executive, Chris Larmour, resigned a year ago, saying Orbex needed new leadership to take it “to the next level.” He was replaced on an interim basis by Kristian Von Bengtson, the company’s chief development officer, until Orbex hired Martin Coates, a technology industry executive and former member of its board, in late May.

In January, Orbex announced it hired Phillip Chambers, a “scale-up expert” who had invested in the Series C round, as its new chief executive. The company also hired Miguel Belló Mora, former director general of Spain’s space agency, as its executive chair.

“Our technology is pivotal in making the U.K. a hub for European orbital launch, and we are entering a critical phase of development,” Chambers said in a statement about the new funding. “This additional funding will support our goal to push on into an operational launch phase, and scale our business when the time comes.”

The company didn’t specify when it thought the time would come to scale its business, but noted that the company is now turning its attention to a Series D round that “will aim to secure its long-term prospects as the leading orbital launch business in Europe.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...