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Arianespace and Orbex to explore European launch partnership

The two launch providers signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore possible joint offering for small satellite launch customers

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Arianespace, the European launch services provider, and Orbex, the UK-based provider of small satellite launch services, today announced that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to study possible future cooperation to answer its customers’ requirements.

The agreement aims to increase the joint capabilities and flexibility of both partners’ services. In particular, it is expected that future collaboration would be particularly beneficial for customers planning small satellite constellations, providing a flexible solution for Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) payloads. Light and heavy-lift launch vehicles could jointly support customers in deploying their initial constellations into the required orbital planes, provide precise injections of a smaller number of satellites through dedicated missions, as well as provide replenishment and replacement launches.

Martin Coates, Orbex CEO: “This collaboration holds a lot of promise for the European launch market and we’re excited to see where we can take this. We are clearly very pleased that Arianespace has chosen to work with Orbex. We already have a strong position in the emerging European microlauncher market and this cooperation could take us even further commercially.”

Prime is a 19-meter long, two-stage rocket designed to transport small satellites weighing up to 180kg into Low Earth Orbit. Orbex Prime is powered by a renewable fuel, bio-propane, which allows the rocket to reduce carbon emissions significantly compared to other similarly sized rockets being developed elsewhere around the world. A study by the University of Exeter showed that a single launch of the Orbex Prime rocket will produce up to 96 percent lower carbon emissions than comparable space launch systems using fossil fuels.

An early adopter of large format metal PBF technology from AMCM, Orbex has received widespread interest from satellite manufacturers and has already signed commercial launch contracts with seven customers. At the end of 2022, Orbex concluded its Series C funding round, netting the company an additional £40.4 million. Despite a challenging landscape for raising capital, Orbex attracted new investors and brought along many of its existing investors into the new round of funding.

In May 2023, Orbex began construction of Sutherland Spaceport (formerly Space Hub Sutherland) on the North coast of Scotland. It is the first vertical launch spaceport to be built on the UK mainland and will become Orbex’s ‘home’ spaceport, where the company will launch up to 12 rockets per year for the deployment of satellites into Earth’s orbit.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites VoxelMatters.com and Replicatore.it, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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