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Germany’s Isar Aerospace Wins 11 Million Euros in Microsat Launcher Competition

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
April 30, 2021
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Spectrum rocket (Credit Isar Aerospace)
  • On April 30, 2021, the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, selected the winner in the “microlauncher competition” of the German Space Agency at the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
  • Isar Aerospace Technologies GmbH receives eleven million euros from the “BOOST!” Initiative in the “Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support” (C-STS) program of the European Space Agency ESA for the qualification and two demonstration flights of its carrier Spectrum.
  • The first flight is to take place between 2022 and 2023 and transport small institutional payloads weighing up to 150 kilograms free of charge onto their orbits.

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — Many satellites are getting smaller and lighter. As a rule, they are launched as “hand luggage” together with other, larger satellites whose operators define the framework conditions. In order to bring small satellites into orbit as the main payload, a separate class of rockets has now been established – the so-called micro launcher. This small carrier market is booming in the USA and China.

So that German start-ups can also benefit from this global “New Space” development, the German Space Agency at DLR opened the Micro launcher competition started. Their first winner was now – in the main round of the competition – selected by a jury of experts and elected winner on April 30, 2021.

“On behalf of the German government, I congratulate Isar Aerospace Technologies GmbH on winning the New Space Launcher competition. Today the dawn of a new era of space travel in Europe! We look forward to being there on the maiden flight of their Spectrum rocket. The ESA NewSpace launcher strategy is a clear role model for the restructuring of European space travel,” explains Thomas Jarzombek, member of the Bundestag, Federal Government Coordinator for the aerospace industry, patron and jury chairman of the microlauncher competition.

German space start-up scene globally competitive

“With Spectrum, the young company not only has a promising small carrier in its program. Isar Aerospace Technologies GmbH has also presented us with a convincing concept for a viable business model that, according to the jury, can assert itself in the microlauncher market in the long term German start-up scene has shown that it is competitive in the international market segment of small sponsors “, emphasizes Dr. Walther Pelzer, DLR Board Member and Head of the German Space Agency at DLR. 

With the microlauncher competition, three German start-ups are being supported with a total amount of 25 million euros from the German contribution to the ESA launcher program to develop so-called small launch vehicles and to operate them commercially.

The teams from HyImpulse Technologies GmbH from Neuenstadt am Kocher, from Isar Aerospace Technologies from Munich and Rocket Factory Augsburg qualified for the main round in July 2020. On November 3, 2020, ESA awarded the first three contracts for EUR 500,000 each to the three SMEs from Germany. 

The ESA is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), which Germany signed at the last ESA Ministerial Conference “Space19 +” in Seville in November 2019. HyImpulse, Isar Aerospace and Rocket Factory Augsburg were all founded in 2018. 

“Isar Aerospace Technologies GmbH has prevailed in the current round of the microlauncher competition, but HyImpulse Technologies GmbH and Rocket Factory Augsburg AG have also made significant progress. In this close race, both companies with their promising concepts will get a second chance in April 2022.”

Paradigm shift

Space travel is currently changing a lot: until about ten years ago, satellites were mainly built large and heavy so that they could carry as many different payloads as possible. The orders for this came mostly from state clients. Today more and more private space companies are launching satellites. For them, the applications and services generated from the satellite data are more in the foreground – and the costs. 

“We took a decisive step today to put ourselves at the forefront of change in space travel. There are actually three winners today. All three companies have shown that they have developed exciting space technology without putting taxpayers at risk and enter the market with highly competitive launchers. In the next year there will be another order as part of our competition. It is now important that we organize the procurement of rocket launches in Europe – at the ESA, the EU and the member states – openly so that these three providers can compete fairly with the established ones for orders and a real market develops here “, says space coordinator Thomas Jarzombek.

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