29. April 2021
Isar Aerospace Technologies GmbH wins the microlauncher competition run by the German Space Agency at DLR

Small launch­ers – big mar­ket

Isar Aerospace Technologies
Is­ar Aerospace Tech­nolo­gies
Image 1/6, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Isar Aerospace Technologies

Is­ar Aerospace Tech­nolo­gies GmbH has won phase 2 of the Mi­cro­launch­er com­pe­ti­tion run by the Ger­man Space Agen­cy at DLR. We con­grat­u­late them warm­ly.
Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, announces the winner
Pe­ter Alt­maier, Fed­er­al Min­is­ter for Eco­nom­ic Af­fairs and En­er­gy, an­nounces the win­ner
Image 2/6, Credit: BMWi/Eriksson

Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, announces the winner

On 30 April 2021, the Fed­er­al Min­is­ter for Eco­nom­ic Af­fairs and En­er­gy, Pe­ter Alt­maier (left), to­geth­er with Thomas Jar­zombek, mem­ber of the Ger­man Fed­er­al Par­lia­ment and the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment Co­or­di­na­tor of Ger­man Aerospace Pol­i­cy, pa­tron and ju­ry chair­man, an­nounced the win­ner of the mi­cro­launch­er com­pe­ti­tion of the Ger­man Space Agen­cy at DLR. Daniel Met­zler, CEO of Is­ar Aerospace Tech­nolo­gies, was present at the vir­tu­al press con­fer­ence on be­half of the win­ner.
Microlaunchers take off
Mi­cro­launch­ers take off
Image 3/6, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Microlaunchers take off

The world of small launch­ers is big. More than a hun­dred projects are try­ing to com­pete in the glob­al launch­er mar­ket. Many of them come from the USA. In Chi­na, too, dozens of com­pa­nies are try­ing to gain a foothold in the small launch­er busi­ness. In Eu­rope, the com­pa­nies Or­bex, PLD Space and Sky­ro­ra, among oth­ers, are ‘hot’ can­di­dates for mar­ket suc­cess. In Ger­many, Is­ar Aerospace, Rock­et Fac­to­ry Augs­burg and Hy­Im­pulse want to make the break­through.
Spectrum
Spec­trum
Image 4/6, Credit: Isar Aerospace Technologies GmbH

Spectrum

Ot­to­brunn has long been es­tab­lished as an aerospace lo­ca­tion. In this Bavar­i­an mu­nic­i­pal­i­ty, the com­pa­ny Is­ar Aerospace, found­ed in 2018, de­vel­ops and pro­duces its ‘Spec­trum’ launch ve­hi­cle. The 28-me­tre-long small launch­er has a two-stage de­sign and us­es light hy­dro­car­bons and liq­uid oxy­gen as pro­pel­lants. The en­gines are be­ing test­ed in Kiruna (north­ern Swe­den). The Spec­trum rock­et is to be launched in­to space from the Nor­we­gian is­land of Andøya and from the Eu­ro­pean space­port in French Guyana, car­ry­ing small satel­lites weigh­ing up to 1000 kilo­grams in­to low Earth or­bit. On Andøya, where sub­or­bital re­search rock­ets have been tak­ing off since the 1960s, a new space­port is cur­rent­ly be­ing built for the launch of this class of satel­lites. The Ot­to­brunn-based start-up has now se­cured an ex­clu­sive launch site there for the next 20 years. The pic­ture shows the Spec­trum up­per stage in the as­sem­bly hall at Is­ar Aerospace in Ot­to­brunn.
HyImpulse Mini-Launcher SL1
Hy­Im­pulse Mi­ni-Launch­er SL1
Image 5/6, Credit: HyImpulse Technologies GmbH

HyImpulse Mini-Launcher SL1

A spe­cial idea comes from Neuen­stadt am Kocher – the start-up Hy­Im­pulse, found­ed in 2018, wants to launch its ‘Hy­Im­pulse Mi­ni-Launch­er SL1’ rock­et with an un­usu­al en­gine. In ad­di­tion to liq­uid oxy­gen, it will not use kerosene as fu­el, but eco-paraf­fin – sim­ply put, some­thing akin to can­dle wax. With this spe­cial hy­brid propul­sion tech­nol­o­gy, which is both safe and eco­nom­i­cal, the com­pa­ny wants to play a pi­o­neer­ing role in Eu­rope. The en­gine was test­ed at the DLR site in Lam­pold­shausen. The three-stage, 27-me­tre-long rock­et is in­tend­ed to trans­port a max­i­mum pay­load of 500 kilo­grams in­to low Earth or­bit. Pos­si­ble launch sites in­clude the Shet­land Is­lands, Kiruna (north­ern Swe­den), the Eu­ro­pean Space­port in French Guiana and Whalers Way (Aus­tralia). This im­age shows the Hy­Im­pulse en­gine un­der­go­ing test­ing at DLR’s Lam­pold­shausen site.
RFA One
RFA One
Image 6/6, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

RFA One

The city of Augs­burg, lo­cat­ed in the south­west of Bavaria, al­ready has a strong eco­nom­ic tra­di­tion thanks to its his­to­ry in this field. Now the com­pa­ny Rock­et Fac­to­ry Augs­burg, found­ed in 2018, wants to gain a foothold in the small launch­er mar­ket with its ‘RFA One’ rock­et. In a new­ly oc­cu­pied hall, the com­pa­ny wants to go in­to se­ries pro­duc­tion as soon as pos­si­ble and thus of­fer cus­tomers very flex­i­ble launch dates at favourable prices. The 24-me­tre-long rock­et will run on liq­uid oxy­gen and liq­uid hy­dro­car­bons and trans­port up to 1300 kilo­grams in­to low Earth or­bit. The propul­sion sys­tem is be­ing test­ed in Kiruna (north­ern Swe­den). Pos­si­ble launch sites are Andøya (Nor­way), the Azores and Kourou (French Guiana). The im­age shows dome caps for the se­ries pro­duc­tion of pro­pel­lant tanks.
  • On 30 April 2021, the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, selected the winner of the microlauncher competition run by the German Space Agency at DLR.
  • Isar Aerospace Technologies GmbH will receive 11 million euro from the 'Boost!' initiative of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support (C-STS) programme for the qualification of its Spectrum launcher and two demonstration flights.
  • The first flight is scheduled to take place in 2022 or 2023 and will transport small institutional payloads weighing up to 150 kilograms in total to their orbits free of charge.
  • Focus: Spaceflight, commercialisation, start-ups

Many new satellites are smaller and lighter than ever before. They are usually launched as 'co-passengers' together with other, larger satellites whose operators define the launch conditions. But a distinct class of launcher systems have now established themselves as a means to deliver small satellites into their target orbits as a primary payload – the microlauncher. In the USA and China, the market for these small launch vehicles is growing very rapidly.

To ensure that German start-ups also benefit from this global 'New Space' development, the German Space Agency at DLR launched its microlauncher competition on 15 May 2020. The first winner in the main round of the competition has now been selected by a jury of experts and was announced on 30 April 2021. "On behalf of the German Federal Government, I congratulate Isar Aerospace Technologies GmbH on their win in this commercial launcher competition," said microlauncher competition patron and jury chairman Thomas Jarzombek, a member of the German Federal Parliament and the Federal Government Coordinator of German Aerospace Policy. "Today marks the beginning of a new era of spaceflight in Europe. We are looking forward to being part of the first flight of their Spectrum rocket. ESA's commercial launcher strategy is a clear role model for the transformation of European spaceflight."

German space start-up scene is globally competitive

"With Spectrum, the young company has more than just a promising small launcher system in its portfolio," said Walther Pelzer, Member of the DLR Executive Board and Head of the German Space Agency at DLR. "Isar Aerospace Technologies GmbH has also presented us with a convincing outline for a viable business model that the jury believes will be able to establish itself on the microlauncher market for the long term. The German start-up scene has thus shown that it is competitive in the international market segment for small launch systems." The microlauncher competition is supporting three German start-ups in the development and commercial operation of small launch systems, with a total of 25 million euro from the German contribution to ESA's launcher programme. The competition criteria include not only the technical design of a launcher service, but also business and financial factors – the goal is the development and implementation of viable business models.

The teams from HyImpulse Technologies GmbH based in Neuenstadt am Kocher, Isar Aerospace Technologies from Munich and Rocket Factory Augsburg qualified for the main round of the competition in July 2020. On 3 November 2020, ESA awarded the first three contracts for 500,000 euros each to the three SMEs from Germany. The ESA contracts were made possible by funding provided by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) that Germany pledged at ESA's Space19+ Council at Ministerial Level in Seville in November 2019. HyImpulse, Isar Aerospace and Rocket Factory Augsburg all formed in 2018. "In the current round of the microlauncher competition, Isar Aerospace Technologies GmbH has come out on top, but HyImpulse Technologies GmbH and Rocket Factory Augsburg AG have also made significant progress," emphasised Pelzer. "In this close race, both companies and their promising concepts have another chance to receive funding of 11 million euros in April 2022."

Paradigm shift

Spaceflight is currently undergoing a major transformation. Until around 10 years ago, satellite were designed to be large and heavy in order to carry as many different payloads as possible. The orders for such satellites mostly came from government clients. Today, more and more private space companies are launching satellites. These companies are more focused on the applications and services generated using satellite data – and the cost of acquiring it. "Today, we have taken a decisive step to establish ourselves at the forefront of change in spaceflight," said Jarzombek. "Today there are actually three winners because all three companies have demonstrated that they can develop exciting space technology without burdening the taxpayer and will go to market with highly competitive launchers. Another contract will be awarded next year as part of the competition. It is now important that we open up the procurement of launchers in Europe – at ESA, the EU and in the Member States – so that these three providers can compete fairly with the established ones for contracts and develop a real market."

Contact
  • Martin Fleischmann
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Ger­man Space Agen­cy at DLR
    Strat­e­gy and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
    Telephone: +49 228 447-120
    Fax: +49 228 447-386
    Königswinterer Straße 522-524
    53227 Bonn
    Contact
  • Holger Burkhardt
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Ger­man Space Agen­cy at DLR
    Launch­ers
    Telephone: +49 228 447-209
    Königswinterer Straße 522-524
    53227 Bonn
    Contact
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