Deimos awarded the flight control system of PRIME, the European commercial launcher from ORBEX.

Elecnor Deimos awarded the flight control system of a European commercial launcher

Guidance, Navigation and Control system of Orbex’s Prime micro-launcher to be provided by Elecnor Deimos

The contract was signed in the frame of ESA’s Boost! Commercial Space Transportation Services Programme, supporting the development of commercially sustainable space transportation services in Europe.

25th of March, 2021

Elecnor Deimos has been selected to develop the flight control system of Orbex’s micro-launcher, Prime. The development activities will be carried out by Deimos Space UK and Deimos Engenharia, Elecnor Deimos branches in UK and Portugal.

The contract will be carried out in the frame of ESA’s Boost! contract awarded to Orbex, for the completion of spaceflight systems in preparation for the first launches of Orbex’s 19-metre micro-launcher, Prime, fuelled by bio-propane and designed to leave zero debris in orbit around the Earth.

Elecnor Deimos will develop the launcher’s GNC – the Guidance, Navigation and Control subsystem running the autonomy and autopilot of the vehicle. The company is also responsible for the GNC’s FDIR – the fault detection, isolation, and recovery subsystem, providing the autonomous failure management of the launcher, and also for the test-benches and post-flight analyses for continuous product improvement.

Deimos Space UK will be leading the Elecnor Deimos contribution, by being lead contractor for the GNC for the atmospheric/ascent flight, the autonomous failure management, test benches and post-flight analysis. Deimos Engenharia in Portugal will lead the GNC for the orbital phase once the launcher leaves the atmosphere.

‘This is the outcome of a long path for Elecnor Deimos in space transportation technologies and a path only made possible with the support of both UK Space Agency and Portuguese Space Agency  and their efforts in promoting sustainable launch initiatives from Europe, says Ismael Lopez, CEO of Elecnor Deimos. We believe in Orbex’s commercial space transportation ’green concept’ since the beginning and we are very proud to say that PRIME micro-launcher will also be powered by Deimos technology’.

Ian Annett, Deputy CEO, UK Space Agency and SRO for the UK Launch Programme said: “This funding is great news for the UK space sector and will ensure companies such as Orbex and Deimos really are at the forefront of the European space industry, enabling the UK to lead in the delivery of commercial launch from Europe. This support to our thriving space sector, alongside our flexible regulations and strong international agreements, means the UK is well placed to benefit from the new commercial opportunities UK launch will bring.”

The critical design review of the GNC to ensure that the subsystem meets the performance requirements is scheduled for the end of 2021. The launch of the first Prime unit is foreseen for the end of 2022.

“Elecnor Deimos’ participation in ESA’s Boost! Programme is perfectly in line with the Portuguese vision and strategy towards the future of European-made microlaunchers, which will need to be flexible, cost-efficient, and sustainable. The project brings forward the democratization of access to space, strengthens commercial actors in the new space sector, and will deepen and expand existing expertise by building upon a rich heritage in the GNC-sector in Portugal”, states Ricardo Conde, president of the Portuguese Space Agency.

Elecnor Deimos is a strategic investor and partner of Orbex and has been part of the early phases of the Orbex micro-launcher design, contributing to the viable product now approved to reach launch in less than two years.

“Deimos is a strong strategic partner of Orbex and has already been working to deliver important aspects of our launch programme in both the UK and Portugal,” said Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex. “GNC is a critical subsystem, and by working with Deimos we ensure it is developed by a team with strong expertise and experience in this complex domain. Both will be required to ensure that Orbex launch vehicles can provide precise, dependable access to space for small satellite customers.”  

Elecnor Deimos space transportation technologies were first demonstrated with ESA’s IXV, a European prototype spaceplane to validate the Europe’s work in the field of reusable launchers, which is now a fundamental heritage for ESA’s Space Rider, where Deimos continues to deliver world-class work. Deimos has also been very active in both Scottish and Azorean spaceports for many years, with studies and activities enabling the sustainable launch of micro-launchers from Europe in partnership with national partners of internationally recognised added value.

PRIME microlauncher’s second stage (credits: ORBEX)

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