UK private space company Orbex has revealed the first full-scale prototype of Orbex Prime, described as the world’s most environmentally friendly rocket. The rocket can be seen fulling integrated on its launch pad where it will undergo testing to make sure it is all ready to go.
Orbex Prime is a 19-meter (62-foot) two-stage rocket, designed to place small satellites in low-Earth orbit. It is powered by bio-propane and while not being completely carbon neutral, it produces 96 percent lower emissions compared to rockets of the same size. The rocket is also reusable and designed to leave no debris in orbit. If this was not enough, the rocket has the world's largest 3D-printed rocket engine.
“This is a major milestone for Orbex and highlights just how far along our development path we now are. From the outside, it might look like an ordinary rocket, but on the inside, Prime is unlike anything else. To deliver the performance and environmental sustainability we wanted from a 21st-century rocket we had to innovate in a wide number of areas–low-carbon fuels, fully 3D-printed rocket engines, very lightweight fuel tanks, and a novel, low-mass reusability technology,” Orbex CEO Chris Larmour said in a statement sent to IFLScience.
The rocket will launch from Space Hub Sutherland, a spaceport on the north coast of Scotland, which is the first European spaceport and the first one in the world constructed and operated as carbon neutral.
“I am deeply impressed with the speed at which the Orbex Prime rocket was developed. It is the first full orbital micro-launcher in Europe. But I am equally impressed by the low-carbon footprint technology applied. My sincere congratulations to the whole Orbex team for this impressive achievement,” Josef Aschbacher, Director General of the European Space Agency said.
Operations at the spaceport are expected to commence in late 2022.