Orbex wins launch contract from In-Space Missions

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LOGAN, Utah — Orbex, a United Kingdom-based small launch vehicle developer, announced Aug. 7 that another British company, In-Space Missions, awarded it a contract for the launch of a small satellite.

Orbex’s Prime small launch vehicle will launch the Faraday-2b satellite in 2022 from the Space Hub Sutherland spaceport to be developed in northern Scotland. The companies did not disclose the terms of the contract.

In-Space Missions provides flight services for payloads of various types, aggregating them on a single spacecraft. The company’s first satellite, Faraday-1, is a six-unit cubesat that will launch later this year on a Rocket Lab Electron.

Faraday-2b will weigh 80 kilograms and carry 45 kilograms of payload. Doug Liddle, chief executive of In-Space Missions, said in an interview that it decided to procure a dedicated small launch of this mission, rather than fly as a rideshare, to provide more schedule certainty.

“We can be a primary on this, which means we get this end-to-end service so we can be very responsive and drive the whole schedule all the way through,” he said. “If our satellite is sitting on the ground, we’re leaving revenue on the table.”

Another factor for selecting Orbex, Liddle said, is that both companies are based in the U.K. “We have an end-to-end regulatory environment for ourselves,” he said. “It removes a lot of uncertainties for us. We’re really pleased to be launching with these guys.”

In-Space Missions is the fourth customer for Orbex, after Deimos, Astrocast and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. Chris Larmour, chief executive of Orbex, said in an interview that In-Space Missions will be on the second launch of the Prime, part of a series of three initial demonstration launches that will carry extra instrumentation and larger margins, reducing its payload capacity.

When in full operations, Prime will be able to place 150 kilograms into sun-synchronous orbit. Development of the rocket is proceeding “on plan,” Larmour said, with a first launch planned in late 2021.

Orbex has focused on serving European customers versus the larger, and highly competitive, global market. “We’re very European focused,” he said. “The closeness of the customer and solution is a really strong factor for us.”

The company will gradually ramp up launches once in operation, with the Sutherland launch site ultimately capable of supporting one launch a month. Larmour said Orbex is also a finalist for a proposed Portuguese spaceport in The Azores.