SpaceX pioneered reusable rockets. Spain’s PLD Space is now hoping to shake up the industry with micro-launchers made in Europe.
A Spanish start-up is getting ready to launch the first private reusable rocket manufactured in Europe.
Miura 1 is a suborbital 12.5-metre micro-launcher named after a famous breed of bull - very appropriate given that the rocket is being developed in Spain and can lift 100-kg payloads.
If tests continue to be successful, it will be performing its first maiden flight in the next few weeks.
Miura 1 would not only be Spain's first rocket to blast off to space but also Europe's first reusable rocket. The technology was pioneered in the US by Elon Musk’s company SpaceX and is now also being used by the likes of RocketLab, Blue Origin and ArianeGroup.
Rockets are very costly to develop and build, so developing reusable launchers can help companies save money, cut waste, and make space exploration more affordable.
“We are developing all the subsystems, all the parts of that rocket and we plan to launch from here our first rocket, so it will be an incredible success for Europe,” said Raúl Verdú, Chief Business Development Officer for PLD Space.
The company was created in 2011 and rapidly raised the funds to make its space dreams come true.
With its headquarters in Elche, eastern Spain, PLD Space has successfully completed preliminary tests in the airport of Teruel.
In the next few weeks, it will be performing its first flight from the Defence Ministry´s aerospace base in Huelva, in the south of Spain.
“There are only nine countries in the world with the capability to launch or to access space with commercial purposes,” said Ezequiel Sánchez, Executive President for PDL Space.
“What we expect is that we can provide that Spain might be the 10th country to get it and also provide that service to European companies”.
Miura 1 is the first step on the road to developing its big brother, Miura 5.
An option for ‘niche orbits’
Miura 5 is already being manufactured to carry out its first commercial mission for small satellite operators in 2024.
The promoters say the small satellites market is growing exponentially and they hope to be one of the most promising small launch providers by offering dedicated flights into specific orbits that mass and public operators do not always reach.
“The next step is to develop Miura 5 that will have the payload capacity of up to 500 kg of mass for commercial satellite operators. Our target is this type of specific customers and with some specific niche orbits that are not being served or are underserved now by mass operators,” said Sánchez.
Miura 5 will be 32 metres long and will be capable of delivering payloads of up to 500 kg from French Guiana.
Last November, the European Space Agency recruited the first two Spanish astronauts in 30 years, while in March, the country launched its own state space agency with an initial budget of over €700 million for this year.