ESA has signed contracts with Orbex and Skyrora in their separate proposals for new commercial launch services for small satellites
ESA aims to boost commercial initiatives that offer space transportation services to space, in space, and returning from space. It does this by nurturing industrial entrepreneurship and stimulating growth and competitiveness within the privately led and funded space sector in Europe via Boost!, its Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support programme.
This programme also supports ESA Member States in implementing national space transportation objectives in the field of spaceports, testing facilities and associated services.
ESA has awarded €7.45 million of co-funding to Orbex and its partners, and Orbex will supplement the funding with an additional €4.7m in matching private investment.
Orbex (Orbital Launch Express, orbex.space) plans to offer launches to low earth orbit for payloads of up to 150 kg through Prime, its two-stage microlauncher, as part of a commercial service from Space Hub Sutherland in the A’Mhoine peninsula in Scotland. The first launch is expected in 2022.
ESA is cofunding the avionics, software and GNC (guidance, navigation and control) activities for the Prime launch vehicle. Orbex has partnered with Deimos Engenharia in Portugal and Deimos Space UK, subcontractors on the Boost! contract, for part of the GNC activities.
Skyrora (www.skyrora.com) has received €3 million of co-funding from ESA. The company plans to offer launch services to low earth sun-synchronous and polar orbits for payloads of up to 315 kg through Skyrora XL, its three-stage microlauncher, with its first test flight targeted for 2022. The funding will be used by Skyrora to complete the technology required to deliver consistent orbital launches from the UK with its XL launch vehicle, and (according to the company) puts it on track to be the first UK company to launch satellites from Europe.