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Orbex hires spaceport chief in ‘critical’ period for rocket firm

Orbex spaceport operations chief
Image credit: Orbex

Orbex has appointed Lesley Still as its spaceport operations chief as the Scottish rocket company nears its first launch.

As spaceport operations chief, Still will oversee Orbex’s Sutherland Spaceport, licence applications and the company’s inaugural launch.

In May, the rocket firm initiated the build-out of its vertical spaceport, which is aiming to host 12 commercial rocket launches per year.

Martin Coates, CEO of Orbex, said: “The next few months are critical for Orbex as we are building both a rocket and a spaceport at the same time.”

Still will be in charge of the completed spaceport’s activity. Prior to Orbex, Still was head of ground operations for Empire Test Pilots School and manager for Highlands and Islands Airports.

Based in Forres, Scotland, Orbex first acquired the ground for its Sutherland Spaceport by signing a lease in November.

“Lesley’s extensive aerospace sector experience will be invaluable as we fine-tune our operations and get ready for our first launch,” said Coates.

The startup’s efforts are being funded by a £40m Series C capital boost announced in October.

Its Prime rocket will be fuelled by renewable biofuel and is designed to carry satellites as heavy as 180kg up to Earth’s lower orbit.

Orbex is one of a handful of several British rocket companies aiming to fly satellite payloads to orbit. Skyrora, also based in Scotland, is building a “taxi service” for satellites and became the first company to complete a successful integrated rocket stage test in the UK since the 1970s.