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Innovative Low-Mass Tanks for a Low-Cost, Low-Carbon European Micro-Launch Vehicle

Project description

New micro-launch vehicle for small satellites

The market for small satellites (smallsats) is rapidly growing, as is the sector for space launch services, with the latter projected to grow to USD 2.52 billion by 2022. A major bane for smallsats is their reliance on ridesharing in a large launcher, this entails issues with available space and scheduling. PRIME is a Phase 2 project developing an EU-based orbital micro-launch vehicle based on dual-cryogenic propellants that reduces both the inert mass of similar vehicles and their environmental impact. Besides allowing greater flexibility in scheduling, the project will introduce a European micro-launcher to the global market at a competitive advantage and greatly reduced cost.


Small satellites (smallsats) are playing an increasingly significant role in space. Smallsats currently fly to space via ridesharing – taking spare capacity on a large launcher. Rideshare has numerous issues, including lack of availability, severe launch delays, and unsuitable orbits. Orbex is developing an EU-based orbital micro-launch vehicle with a uniquely innovative advantage that eliminates the issues of rideshare and mitigates the cost of a dedicated launch for smallsat operators. The vehicle exploits the properties of dual-cryogenic propellants to create an innovative, lightweight, low-cost tanking
arrangement that reduces the inert mass of the launch vehicle by as much at 30% over traditional designs, and enable the world’s first environmentally-friendly rocket fuel strategy, with a 90% reduction in environmental impact. The small satellite launch market is well established and growing rapidly. The market for smallsat launch services is projected to grow US$2.52B p.a by 2022, a CAGR 23.2%. The benefits of developing this tanking system for a European micro-launch vehicle include:-
• Lowering cost of space access, including logistics/integration
• Reduced delay in time-to-market
• Enabling faster revenue generation for smallsat business models
Orbex staff have designed & realized a prototype tank, and subsequently drafted patents for the technology. The tank was instrumented, hydrostatically pressure-tested and then used to prove the concept in cryogenic conditions. The objective of this SME Instrument Phase 2 project is to build on a prior SME Instrument Phase 1 feasibility study of the materials, suppliers and production processes required to implement this novel fuel tank concept using European materials and techniques at full scale. This Phase 2 project allow a European company to compete for this large, global market with significant, sustainable cost and operational advantages over global competitors.

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Net EU contribution
€ 2 295 893,63
N7 9DP London
United Kingdom

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The organization defined itself as SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) at the time the Grant Agreement was signed.

London Inner London — East Haringey and Islington
Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)
Total cost
€ 3 576 559,70

Participants (2)