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Orbex patents coaxial tanking technology

By Garry McCartney

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Orbex's coaxial tank structure.
Orbex's coaxial tank structure.

Space launch company Orbex, which is developing and will operate Sutherland Spaceport, has secured a patent for its greener technology.

Orbex, an orbital launch services company based at Forres Enterprise Park, now has international protection for its coaxial tanking technology.

Chief technology officer at Orbex, Jonas Bjarnø, confirmed the newly patented tank structure enables a uniquely low-mass rocket that is around 30 per cent lighter than similarly sized launchers, while offering greater power, higher performance, and better economics.

He said: “We have created something that is completely unique.

“We set out to deliver a uniquely innovative, efficient and sustainable spaceflight solution, which is exactly what we are now building.”

Small rockets which copy the traditional stacked tank architecture of larger rockets are less efficient and cost effective because they carry much less fuel per unit of ‘dry mass’.

The Orbex team responded by nesting the fuel tank inside an outer tank of liquid oxygen. This arrangement has unique synergies with Orbex’s choice of bio-propane as a rocket fuel as it does not freeze solid when cooled to the same temperature as liquid oxygen.

The coaxial tank structure eliminates redundant components and subsystems such as insulation, extra bulkheads, external pipework, heavy tank walls and thermal conditioning equipment.

The patent protects the technology in more than a dozen countries.

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