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PLD Space secures contract for Spanish small satellite launcher development
This contract not only cements PLD Space's new role in Europe's space sector but also signifies a major step for Spain in securing independent access to space, a critical component in the global small satellite market.
PLD Space secures contract for Spanish small satellite launcher development
by Hugo Ritmico
Madrid, Spain (SPX) Jan 30, 2024

PLD Space has been named the sole contractor in the second phase of a project aimed at developing a Spanish launcher for small satellites. This endeavor, part of the Aerospace Strategic Project for Economic Recovery and Transformation (PERTE), carries a significant tender value of 40.5 million euros.

The awarding of this contract to PLD Space follows a comprehensive evaluation by the Contracting Committee, comprising independent experts from the Centre for Technological Development and Innovation (CDTI). The company distinguished itself by achieving the highest technical rating, underscoring its expertise and readiness to take on this ambitious project.

Under the auspices of the Spanish government, the PERTE Aerospace initiative seeks to establish a strategic national asset: reliable access to space. The contract mandates the design, construction, and testing of an orbital launcher flight unit by 2025, positioning Spain at the forefront of the burgeoning small satellite launch market.

This project is managed through the pre-commercial public procurement (PCP) instrument of the CDTI. Uniquely, this arrangement operates on a counter-performance format, necessitating the reimbursement of the received amount through royalties during the first ten years of the launcher's commercial phase, set to commence in 2026.

For the proposal assessment, PLD Space presented an in-depth preliminary design review (PDR) of MIURA 5, the proposed launcher. This design underwent rigorous evaluation by an independent committee, affirming the company's technical prowess and solid business plan.

Ezequiel Sanchez, PLD Space's Executive President, remarked, "The technical decision in favour of PLD Space confirms that our technological development strategy is sound and is based on a solid business plan. Winning this public contract to create a strategic national capability reinforces our position as a leading company in securing Europe's access to space."

PLD Space was previously selected in the first phase of this PERTE project in July 2023, receiving funding of 1.5 million euros. The focus then was on advancing the launcher's design. Over the subsequent six months, PLD Space achieved the required preliminary design maturity for MIURA 5, coinciding with the launch and post-launch campaign of MIURA 1. This synchrony allowed for the incorporation of improvement measures identified from the first flight of the technology demonstrator.

Raul Torres, CEO and co-founder of PLD Space, commented on the effort involved, stating, "The team's efforts in compiling such an extensive volume of information of such high quality has been titanic. Having a preliminary design of MIURA 5 with such meticulous detail significantly accelerates the timeline for its realization."

The roadmap for MIURA 5 aligns with the PERTE conditions. 2024 marks the beginning of tests on mechanisms and components of the MIURA 5 engine, alongside challenges in infrastructure development crucial for the orbital launcher. Notably, the first half of 2024 will see the inauguration of PLD Space's new headquarters in Elche (Alicante), tailored for the manufacture and assembly of the preliminary MIURA 5 units.

Raul Verdu, the head of Business Development and co-founder of PLD Space, emphasizes the importance of local and national supply chains, stating, "We are building a unique industrial capacity within Europe, right from the local level, through the vertical integration and fortification of the regional and national supply chains. Doing this will endow us with enhanced stability, control, and agility."

Significant milestones ahead include the construction of a launch base at the CSG European spaceport in Kourou (French Guiana) and the expansion of the company's test facilities at Teruel Airport. By the end of 2024, PLD Space plans to expand its workforce from 165 to 300 employees, gearing up for the qualification process and maiden flight of the first MIURA 5 unit in 2025. The company aims to commence commercial operations in 2026 and targets exceeding 30 launches annually by 2030.

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