Bio-propane in rocket first

UK-based spaceflight company Orbex has unveiled a Prime rocket at its new facility in Scotland that it is claimed includes the world’s largest 3D printed rocket engine and it will use BioLPG.

The Orbex Prime is considered to be a completely re-thought and re-engineered two-stage rocket that is said to be up to 30% lighter and 20% more efficient than any other vehicle in the small launcher category and will typically be used to deliver small satellites into Earth’s orbit.

The completed engineering prototype of the Stage 2 rocket – the stage that will transit into orbital flight after launch – is made from a specially formulated lightweight carbon fibre and aluminium composite. The 3D rocket engine that it contains is manufactured in a single piece without joins giving it the advantage over other rocket engines which can suffer from weaknesses associated with joining and welding when faced with the extreme temperature and pressure fluctuation associated with space flight.

It is also the first commercial rocket engine designed work with bio-propane, the clean-burning, renewable fuel source that can cut carbon emissions by 90% compared to fossil hydrocarbon fuels and is supplied by Orbex’s new exclusive BioLPG fuel partner Calor.

Orbex can accommodate a range of payload capacities between 100kg – 220kg, to altitudes between 200km and 1250km. The Prime’s maiden flight from Scotland is scheduled for 2021.