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Spanish Govt backs PLD Space with $1.56M program
by Staff Writers
Madrid, Spain (SPX) Apr 12, 2016

File image.

The European launch company PLD Space has been awarded by the Spanish Government with a $1.56M propulsion project called TEPREL. TEPREL (Spanish Reusable Propulsion Technologies for Launchers) will help PLD Space to continue their liquid rocket engine program, the first one dedicated to boost the small satellite industry in Europe. This project will help PLD Space to have a 35kN engine qualified for flight by the end of 2017.

PLD Space is working since 2014 with a proprietary propulsion system that will be used as first stage of the suborbital reusable rocket ARION 1. So far, the company has performed more than 30 tests of their first liquid rocket engine configuration, called calorimetric version, and now the Spanish Government with TEPREL will help PLD Space to continue its development with the regenerative version and the flight qualification unit.

The company is also working in parallel with a new engine version that uses the same TCA (Thrust Chamber Assembly) but has some modifications to be used as second stage of the PLD Space's ARION 2 orbital reusable launch vehicle and also with a single shaft LOX/kerosene turbopump. All this propulsion developments will be qualified for the first orbital flight, targeted in early 2020.

Raul Verdu, Industrial CTO and co-founder of PLD Space explains "Today we have achieved a new important milestone in our company. TEPREL project is a result of the good work done until now and it also shows the growing confidence of the institutions in our project. The propulsion achievements in Spain and Europe have been the key factor for this award. We are demonstrating that we are capable of developing a satellite launcher.

In 2012, the Spanish Government through the Technological and Industrial Development Centre (CDTI) gave a seed contract called NEOTEC to PLD Space. In 2013, the company raised its first round of investment and, in 2015, PLD Space became the first company in Europe that developed full scale liquid rocket engines to boost the small satellites industry. In fact, it is still the only private company in Europe that has a liquid propulsion test stand to test and qualify engines and rocket stages up to 20,000 pounds of thrust for flight.

PLD Space plans to grow in Europe and in the US: "We are working really hard looking for new US and European Venture Capitals and also we continue working to open a US company. PLD Space is going to be a worldwide launch services provider and we want to be where our two main markets are.

The small satellites industry is growing really fast, thanks to the technology miniaturisation and today there is not any dedicated launch vehicle around the world. Our customers have signed more than $45M in pre/sales and are waiting for the best option to reach orbit. We know that our competitors are strong in the US but there is a huge worldwide market to several players. We will be there in the next years", explains Raul Torres, CEO and co-founder of PLD Space.

PLD Space is a European company focused on providing commercial access to space to small satellites. The company has achieved some important milestones during 2015 designing from the ground up the first LOX-Kerosene liquid rocket engine in Europe fully dedicated to boost the small satellite industry.

The company is also making progress in the commercial propulsion field in Europe. Last December PLD Space was awarded by the European Commission with a $ 334,000 contract to test innovative propulsion technologies for the German Space Agency (DLR).

ARION 1 is a single stage, reusable and cost effective suborbital launch vehicle, capable of sending up to 200 kg of scientific and technological payloads and up to 250 km in a parabolic trajectory. ARION 1 is powered by one Liquid Oxygen (LOX) - kerosene, 30 kN thrust engine.

ARION 1 sounding rocket has been designed from the ground up by PLD Space to provide low-G flight opportunities for the suborbital market, with particular emphasis on scientific, education and technology research with a price per kilogram below $7,000.

PLD Space's ARION 1 first suborbital test flight is scheduled for first quarter 2018 and will be the first suborbital flight into Space from South Europe since 1990. There are currently 5 confirmed suborbital commercial missions, that will serve to provide commercial suborbital launch opportunities to worldwide customers, launching into Space from Europe.

In addition this vehicle will be used to test all critical technologies (in particular propulsion, structures and avionics) for orbital missions with ARION 2.

ARION 2 is a three stages, reusable orbital launch vehicle dedicated to boost the small satellites industry with a price per kilogram below $40,000.

ARION 2 launch vehicle is capable of launching into orbit up to 150 kg of payload to 400 km Low Earth Orbit (LEO) or 80 kg to Sun Synchronous (SSO) in standard mission. This vehicle will be also capable of sending up to 5 kg of payload to Moon Orbit. PLD Space's first orbital mission is scheduled for second quarter 2020, trying to put in Low Earth Orbit a 50kg class demonstration satellite and 4 academic cubesats. In addition, the company plans to perform the first Moon launch attempt in the second quarter 2023, sending a 5kg class satellite to Moon Orbit in a scientific mission that will enable space exploration with small payloads.

This first ARION 2 mission will be the first orbital launch from Europe since Orbital Sciences Corporation's Minisat mission launch aboard Pegasus XL in 1997 from Canary Islands.

In order to accomplish successfully the first ARION 2's orbital missions, PLD Space will perform this launch vehicle development program using the same technologies that have been previously demonstrated flight reliability onboard ARION 1.

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