PARIS — British startup horizontal launch services provider Orbital Access has started a crowdfunding campaign with the aim of collecting $2.7 million in investment that will trigger a grant from the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency (ESA).
The campaign is managed through Space Starters and is scheduled to end in early January.
Orbital Access’s business plan appears to assume that most smallsat-dedicated launch startups fail to materialize — not a wild assumption given that there are literally dozens of them.
But for Orbital Access, only four or five competitors will emerge. The company says Virgin Orbit, the U.S./New Zealand Rocket Lab and Japan’s Epsilon rocket are the most likely survivors.
“While the projected market is large and growing, the number of systems in earnest development to address it are few,” Orbital Access says in the business plan presented to investors. “While other systems have been announced as in development, these are considered unlikely to materialize. A mature market with 4 to 5 competitors is envisioned due to the very high cost of entry.”
That selection leaves out Firefly and Vector in the United States, Orbex and Skyrora in Britain and numerous others that have cleared initial financial hurdles.
Orbital Access uses an MD-11 jet to carry a suborbital spacecraft to an altitude of 12 kilometers. The first stage is then released and climbs to 90 kilometers before releasing up to three second-stage rockets, each with a satellite weighing up to 150 kilograms.
The satellites would be placed into a 650-kilometer orbit inclined 88.2 degrees relative to the equator. Alternatively, a single 150-kilogram satellite — Orbital Access here is thinking about the OneWeb broadband constellation — could be placed into a 1,200-kilometer orbit.
Orbital Access says plans to offer flights for $30,000 per kilogram and to achieve a flight rate of more than 20 launches a year by 2026, and more than 40 p4r year by 2036.
Company Chief Executive Stuart McIntyre has been consistent in saying the capex requirement to produce the Orbital 500R vehicle would be around 450 million British pounds, or $585 million.
In its business plan, it says half of that would be raised by British, European and other partner governments through grants, with the remaining half to be funded by equity.
For now, the business is valued at 8.43 million euros ($9.7 million).
The company says that key to its future equity raises are governments offering air strips for the Orbital 500R to take off and land. Another key is to steer clear of any issues with the Missile Control Technology Regime (MTCR), which the U.S. government and its allies use to stop the spread of ballistic missile technology.
The company’s current valuation is 8.43 million euros. “The value has been discounted to reflect the early stage of the venture both in terms of illiquidity (90%) and probability of success (50%), Orbital Access says.\
Assuming launches begin around 2021-22, revenue in 2023 would be a base-case 25.4 million euros, with a target of 84.7 million euros.
Orbital Access has received a funded grant valued at 1 million euros from the U.K. Space Agency and ESA’s General Support Technology Program. The grant “awaits confirmation of matching funding from Orbital to proceed to contract,” the company says. “Further fundraising is then targeted to match further agency grant funding as the launcher development program progresses.”
If the crowdfunding is successful, Orbital Access will complete a fuller definition of its system definition before seeking additional funding for a preliminary design review. “Beyond this stage, a total of 243 million pounds ($316 million) of further equity raising is intended to complete the project and initiate commercial services,” the company says. “It is envisaged that this will complement further ESA and UK government funding support.”