BOSTON – Launch integrator TriSept Corp. announced plans Jan. 14 to purchase an Orbex Prime launch vehicle for a dedicated rideshare mission to fly from Scotland’s Sutherland Spaceport in 2022.
TriSept, a longtime U.S. launch vehicle integrator and mission manager, announced plans in December to open an office in the United Kingdom as part of a comprehensive teaming agreement with the Satellite Applications Catapult. Through the new contract with the United Kingdom-based Orbex, TriSept is continuing to expand its international presence.
“We’ve been engaging with the international community to increase the number of spacecraft providers available to help fill these missions,” Jason Armstrong, TriSept Launch Integration Services director, told SpaceNews. “Rideshare is becoming a prevalent portion of almost every launch.”
TriSept is Orbex’s first U.S. customer. “We’ve had good traction in the European market but this contract with a U.S. customer is a key milestone for us,” said Jan Skolmli, Orbex chief commercial officer.
TriSept is also the first mission integrator to buy an Orbex Prime rocket. Prior to the TriSept deal, Orbex signed contracts directly with satellite customers.
“In certain cases, the best approach is to work directly with the customer,” Skolmli said. “In other cases, it is best to have an experienced rideshare accumulator like TriSept to give us access to end customers that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to reach.”
Orbex is based in Forres, Scotland, with design facilities in Denmark. The Orbex Prime launch vehicle is designed to send 150 kilograms to sun synchronous orbit. Orbex plans to conduct its first orbital launch in late 2021, followed by a three or four missions in 2022, before picking up the pace in 2023, Skolmli said. The “relatively gentle ramp up” is designed to give Orbex some margin in its early manifest, he added.
TriSept’s Orbex Prime rideshare mission is likely to send between eight and twenty cubesats and microsatellites into orbit.
“There’s still plenty of room aboard this space flight,” said Rob Spicer, TriSept president and CEO. “It offers a great launch opportunity for European and U.S. missions alike.”
The Orbex Prime mission is not TriSept’s first purchase of an entire launch vehicle. In 2005, Chantilly, Virginia-based TriSept bought the SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket, to send Malaysia’s RazakSat Earth-imaging satellite into orbit in 2009.
More recently, TriSept integrated cubesats with Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle NASA’s 19th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites mission. TriSept also is integrating eleven cubesats scheduled to travel into orbit on Virgin Orbit’s Launcher One rocket in 2020 as part of NASA’s 20th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites mission.
NASA awarded TriSept a contract in December to continue providing mission integration services and deployment hardware for NASA cubesat missions.