Scottish rocket company Orbex has secured £16.7 million in follow-on funding to complete work on its Prime microlaunch vehicle and its spaceport that is under construction in Sutherland.

The cash injection is an update to a £40.4m Series C funding round completed in October 2022 and includes a group of six significant investors led by the Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB). It follows receipt of £3.3m from the UK Space Agency in December of last year and takes the total funds raised to date by the business to £102m.

Orbex is in the final stages of developing Prime, its 19-metre two-stage rocket that will transport small satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO). Meanwhile, construction work at its launch site on the A’ Mhoine peninsula on the north coast of Scotland has been underway for nearly a year.

READ MORE: Scottish rocket company Orbex lands launchpad funding

SNIB has provided £10.5m of follow-on funding, with the remainder spread across venture capital firms Octopus Ventures, BGF, Heartcore, and the Export & Investment Fund of Denmark (EIFO), plus corporate and angel investors.

In January Orbex appointed scale-up expert Phillip Chambers as its new chief executive, taking over from interim CEO Martin Coates. Mr Chambers invested £200,000 of his own money into Orbex as part of the firm’s 2022 fundraising.

His appointment was accompanied by that of Miguel Belló Mora, former director-general of the Spanish Space Agency, as chairman of Orbex.

Mr Chambers noted that Orbex is one of only two space rocket manufacturers in the UK, the other being Skyrora based in Cumbernauld. Orbex has the additional distinction of being the only manufacturer that will also operate its own spaceport, where its Prime rockets will carry satellites into space on behalf of various technology and communications customers.

The Herald: Phillip Chambers (left) and Miguel Belló MoraPhillip Chambers (left) and Miguel Belló Mora (Image: Orbex)

Scotland's most advanced spaceport, Shetland's SaxaVord on the island of Unst, secured the first licence for vertical UK rocket launches in December. Its facilities will host the launch of rockets made by a variety of manufacturers.

Mr Chambers said Orbex is entering a "critical phase of development" as it seeks to create a sustainable, cost-effective launch vehicle to compete with the best of Europe’s spaceflight manufacturers. The fresh funding will support the push into an operational launch phase "when the time comes”.

"At the end of the day, the reality of NewSpace companies like ours is you don’t get paid until you’ve proved flight, therefore they are very capital intensive up until the point of regularly, reliably launching, at which point they become quite profitable," he said. "It’s as simple as that.”

READ MORE: Scotland's space industry prepares to go into orbit

Orbex was set up in 2015 as Moonspike Limited by former chief executive Christopher Larmour and Danish national Kristian Bengston, the founder of open-source space programme Copenhagen Suborbitals. The business employs 120 people at its main facility in Forres and a further 50 in Denmark.

Orbex has two active patents in a number of European countries and the United States covering various parts of its rocket technology. This is powered by a renewable biofuel that allows the rocket to significantly reduce carbon emissions compared to other similarly-sized rockets.

Meanwhile, the Southerland launch site is expected to be the world's first carbon-neutral spaceport.

“At the bank, we have been particularly drawn to Orbex’s commitment to sustainability through its use of renewable biofuel and launch technology, all working towards the goal of carbon neutrality," SNIB director of innovation Nicola Douglas said.

READ MORE: Orbex secures international patent for rocket technology

"Its approach perfectly aligns to our net zero and innovation missions. This follow-on investment comes at an exciting time as Orbex expands its manufacturing and looks to complete its Sutherland Spaceport this year.”

Erik Balck Sørensen, chief investment officer at EIFO said Orbex is one of the few companies with a Danish presence that fulfils the investment fund's strategic focus on defence, green transition and commercialization of research.

"Whereas the EU currently relies on the US or other foreign countries, Orbex can in the near future give the EU space launch capabilities again," Mr Sørensen added.