Elche Company PLD Space say that they have raised the money needed that will enable them to continue with the development of their Arion 1 reusable suborbital launch vehicle.
The funding will be provided by the European Union and will advance the implementation of its space project next year, however the Elche firm is still looking for 8 million euros in private investment.
“The news confirms that we are in the Champions League of emerging projects and with more possibilities in the markets of the future,” said business director, Raul Verdú.
CEO, Raúl Torres added, “We are much closer to developing a space rocket that allows Spain to have its own scientific and commercial launching capacity into space. This is an opportunity that is possible to only ten countries around the world,” he said.
Arion 1 is a kerosene-fuelled, single-stage rocket, designed to use a combination of parachute and propulsion to land after lofting its 200-kilogram payload into a 250-kilometer suborbital trajectory. PLD is positioning the Arion 1 as both a commercial suborbital launcher and technology demonstrator for Arion 2, a three-stage smallsat launcher designed to carry up to 150 kilograms to low Earth orbits between 400 and 1,200-kilometers.
The first launch of Arion 1 is planned for 2018 with Arion 2 to follow in 2020.
“This year the workload will be very high, with the aim of completing the construction of the prototypes and their propulsion testing at Teruel airport. ”That’s where we see the fruits of our labours because at the Elche Business Park we cannot test our engines for safety reasons. The airport in Teruel, which is about 3 hours from Elche, is the ideal location, “said Verdú.
Now that the EU has given the green light to the programme, the company will become the first commercial launcher of reusable aircraft. Its challenge is to drastically reduce the cost of scientific and commercial access to become the “Correos” of space.
Apart from the economic aid, the Elche company has also received the support of important people from within the space industry, such as Franco Malerba, the first astronaut in the history of Italy who flew on the NASA space shuttle in the STS-46 mission. During the last year, Malerba has contributed his knowledge and experience to the company.
Last June the company satisfactorily concluded the first phase of testing of the Arion 1 engine. Since then, the prototypes will continue to be tested thanks to the strong economic injection of the EU, confirming that the future of PLD Space.
PLD Space plans to relocate this year from the Universidad Miguel Hernández’s Science Park to a new plant in Elche. They also plan to set up new engine testbeds at Teruel Airport.