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OHB Sweden Signs Launch Service Contract with Rocket Factory Augsburg

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
April 6, 2021
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RFA One launcher in flight (Credit: Rocket Factory Ausburg)

AUGSBURG, Germany (OHB PR) — OHB Sweden, a subsidiary of the space and technology group OHB SE, has signed a launch service contract with Rocket Factory Augsburg AG (RFA) for a mission planned for mid-2024.

“OHB Sweden and Rocket Factory share the common philosophy of delivering the highest quality and reliability at the lowest possible prices. OHB Sweden has extensive experience of more than three decades in the design, development and testing of low-cost small satellite missions. With the contract we have found our counterpart in the market for start-up services,” said Benoit Mathieu, Managing Director at OHB Sweden. “We have been following the development of RFA very closely from the start. The team has had an impressive track record over the past two years, and so have we are confident that RFA will maintain this pace in the coming milestones and with the contract we aim to secure a starting place for one of our commercial customers.”

OHB Sweden is a Swedish space systems company that develops, builds, tests and operates satellites for various types of space missions in the areas of communication, earth observation, space research and exploration. The portfolio ranges from near-earth and geostationary satellites to interplanetary missions. The company recently sealed the contract for the implementation of the Arctic Weather Satellite (AWS) with ESA as the main contractor, thus marking the future of OHB Sweden in the small satellite constellation market.

The Rocket Factory, a start-up behind which the satellite manufacturer OHB is a strategic investor and the venture capital company Apollo Capital Partners, is currently developing a carrier system called RFA One for small satellites with a payload capacity of up to 1,300 kg for low earth orbit (LEO).  The first launch is planned for the end of 2022. The company recently qualified the upper stage tank system in cryogenic tests and is currently running a hot-ignition test campaign for the main engine at Esrange, Sweden.

“There’s always something special when you sign your first commercial customer,” said Jörn Spurmann, Chief Commercial Officer at RFA. “We are particularly proud that OHB Sweden has chosen our extremely competitive start-up service, which is great proof of that is that we are gaining a foothold in the commercial market. Especially since OHB Sweden is leading the way in the New Space area with the fast turnaround time of the GMS-T mission launched in January, we believe this is the beginning of a great partnership. “

Dr. Stefan Brieschenk, Chief Operating Officer at RFA, added: “We are delighted to be making the outstanding capabilities of the RFA One Starter Service available to OHB Sweden. This is an important milestone for future European access to space in a new environment that enables commercial solutions with high cost efficiency and strong customer orientation. The orbital stage of the RFA One vehicle can position the payloads exactly where the customer wants them, while offering a new level of flexibility not covered by traditional launch services and solutions. “

With its state-of-the-art staged combustion engine technology, RFA is at the forefront of the global development of new space launch vehicles. This high-performance engine technology, coupled with production techniques that are as cost-effective as possible, is new in Europe. With the support of OHB, RFA was able to acquire key technologies and expertise that will advance the business case of the RFA One launcher in order to establish it in global competition. Recent tests have shown that RFA is well on the way to developing the most efficient and powerful rocket engine technology in Europe. 

Recently, the RFA won the first round of the German micro launch vehicle competition of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which the RFA received a funding commitment of over €500,000 [$593,792] under the ESA Boost! grant. In the next round of the competition, DLR and ESA will award an initial order worth €11,000,000 [$13,063,435] for institutional payloads.

About the Rocket Factory Augsburg

The Rocket Factory Augsburg was founded in 2018 by Jörn Spurmann and Stefan Brieschenk, the investor Hans Steininger and the German aerospace company OHB SE. The goal of the start-up is to develop a launch vehicle prototype by the end of 2022 that can transport satellites weekly into low-earth orbits at unrivaled low prices. Rocket Factory aims for exponential growth in the booming New Space market. The goal of the start-up is to combine maximum performance with extremely cost-effective manufacturing processes and construction principles. 

The experts plan the concept of the rocket from the perspective of the satellites and the customers: Rocket Factory will bring the satellites precisely into the desired orbits with a unique orbital stage. The launcher will thus offer an end-to-end delivery service for the last mile. The launcher combines three key competitive advantages: an extremely cost-effective architecture, precise in-orbit delivery and superior propulsion technology. 

The startup employs a team of 85 (as of February 2021) New Space experts from 25 different countries in Augsburg who already have experience in other launcher projects.

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