After a million hours of engineering and 150 technical tests, the Spanish company PLD Space presented MIURA 1 this Friday, “the first rocket built in Spain to transport small satellites into space,” explained the company’s executive president. , Ezequiel Sánchez. It is the first launch vehicle of this company, founded in 2011 by two young people from Elche and based in the same city.
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The MIURA 1 will be available to launch 100 kilos of cargo into space when it exceeds the validation period of the authorities, something that could arrive in about six months. Its first flight is scheduled for the second half of 2022. The rocket has had to overcome “numerous technical challenges”, such as the design and manufacture of the first liquid-combustion propellant developed by a private company in Europe. “We have had to develop practically all the technologies from scratch,” said Raúl Verdú, co-founder and chief technology officer of PLD Space.
To develop this launcher, the company has had 36 million euros of financing. 80% have come from the private sector and 20% from public institutions such as the National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA) or the Ministry of Defense. PLD Space has contracts with six European space agencies and hopes to add to its potential clients any company interested in putting minisatellites in orbit, a sector could go from 369 million dollars billed in 2020 to 1.1 billion dollars in 2040, according to data managed by the Spanish Government.
One of the launch ports will be located in El Arenosillo, a space base that INTA has in the municipality of Moguer (Huelva). The Kourou spaceport, in French Guiana, used mainly in the missions of the European Space Agency, will also be used.
The test bed for the rocket has been built at the Teruel airport, where the company has invested around 4 million euros, a figure that will grow in the coming months due to the new facilities required for the MIURA 5, which the company already has in development. PLD Space hopes that this new launcher will be able to carry loads of between 400 and 500 kilos supported by five engines that will be about four times more powerful than those of the MIURA 1. In vertical position the MIURA 1 measures like a three-silver building and the 5 as a five-story.
To carry out this new development, the company will hire more than 100 workers who will be added to the 60 it currently has. The founders of the company ask those interested “to apply”: both to engineering positions and for technical professions, such as machining or carbon fiber handling, which represent 40% of the total work in the construction of the rockets. The average age of the workers is 32 years.
The new mini-satellite industry
Led by American companies like Starlink (Elon Musk) or Kuiper (Jeff Bezos), the digital industry has extended its frontier into space. It is based on an evolution of the concept of space exploitation from having very large and complex satellites located at high orbits (36,000 km from the surface) to a “swarm” model made up of many simpler devices, located at lower orbits. (500 km), cheaper to launch and shorter-lived.
Starlink has 1,300 of these minisatellites in orbit and Kuiper is authorized to launch 3,236. The industry hopes that they will revolutionize digital connections and be key in the development of technologies such as 5G. “The space industry is going to be the new Internet, the next trillion dollar sector,” said Raúl Torres, CEO and second co-founder of PLD Space. His company is the first Spanish attempt to break into the launcher sector for these minisatellites, now dominated by the US, Russia or France.
“Sometimes they ask me what a rocket for, but we all consume the space industry, although we do not realize it. If you have come here using GPS you use space technology,” he continued. In Spain, the Government has given the green light to 80 projects that want to operate mini-satellites for the Spanish market.
In fact, the founders and the president of PLD Space have emphasized the weight that their activity has on the territory. a business that forms a new industry. “80% of our supply chain is in Spain, 15% in Europe and the remaining 5% in the US. We have taught toolmakers who made Lego pieces to build pieces for rocket engines,” Torres explained.
We have taught toolmakers who made Lego pieces to build rocket engine parts
– Co-founder of PLD Space
“Until now, Spain was only capable of manufacturing ships and aircraft parts, now we are capable of manufacturing space rockets,” he presumed. The name of the rocket, they confess, is also an “attempt to internationalize the Spain brand.” it had a name that was very similar to that of another pitcher and we decided to change it. It is like [el fabricante de coches deportivos italiano] Lamborghini, which internationalized the name of a cattle ranch “, they have explained.
With this launch vehicle, Spain becomes the 14th country that has the geostrategic capacity to put minisatellites into orbit with its own launcher. With MIURA 5, whose first commercial mission could arrive in 2024, it will also count on reaching high orbits.
The company has also confirmed that it will launch a new round of financing of 100 million euros in the coming months to pay for the development of the MIURA 5, but of which it has not yet provided further details.