• Travis Fawcett

20th January 2019 Article by The Telegraph

Updated: Jan 21, 2019

Orbital Access: 'We want to be the white van man of satellite delivery'

Original article by Alan Tovey

"Prestwick-airport based Orbital has completed technical feasibility work on the spaceplane and proceeds from the £2m fundraising being run by Cornucopia Capital will be used to develop and test demonstration vehicles. The company hopes to conduct its first flight test in 2021, with commercial launches beginning in 2022. By 2028 it hopes to be using its concept to run 30 launches a year, each of them carrying 500kg payloads into space.

The company aims to cash in on the boom in small satellites as demand for the data they provide grows, with independent estimates valuing the launch market for such space vehicles at $62bn a year by 2030.

Chief executive Stuart McIntyre said: “At the moment launchers such as SpaceX are the industry’s version of ‘container ships’. We plan to be the ‘white van’, carrying lots of smaller loads and doing it faster.”

Small satellites are often put into space by “piggybacking” on big rocket launches, but former BAE Systems executive Mr McIntyre says this does not give the flexibility that will be needed in the future.

“You’re depending on other customers’ schedules for launches and slots - we want to be launch on demand,” he said.

Orbital’s design envisages “mission cartridges” which can be prepared off-site and then plugged in to the spaceplane. As well as launching satellites, the company’s plans include making products in micro-gravity and testing British company Reaction Engines’ revolutionary Sabre engine. This system combines a conventional jet engine with a rocket, meaning vehicles using it can get from earth to space in a single stage.

The UK Government has already backed Orbital with a £250,000 grant and the Britain has made space a key policy, with the aim of the country becoming a major player in the sector.

“Our competitors are either behind us or using technologies which are a decade old,” said Mr McIntyre. “Here in Britain we have the engineering ability and knowledge base to establish ourselves as a world leader.”

Orbital plans further fundraisings to provide the £450m it needs over the next five years, but believes up to half of this could come from government grants if Brexit hits UK participation in the European Space Agency.

Plans for a flotation on the Maltese stock exchange announced in 2017 were shelved because the market was seen as too small to support Orbital's ambitions, with the company targeting a £750m valuation on annual revenues of £360m by 2028."

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