America may have SpaceX or Blue Origin, but Europe is not left behind. With young companies, much less known than their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic, the old continent also wants to make a place for itself in the world of New Space . In this respect, one of the best European examples is surely Isar Aerospace, the young light launcher company from Germany has just completed a second round of financing, which has enabled the company to recover nearly 75 million dollars. This is enough money to continue the development of Spectrum, the company’s light launcher, until its first flight. This round of financing had been initiated last December by the company, which had already collected more than 100 million dollars during a first search for investors.
Among the companies that believed in the project of Isar Aerospace, several big names of German industry are jostling for position, the car manufacturer Porsche but also HV Capital or the banking group Lombard Odier.
“Now we want to expand our launch capabilities, our manufacturing and production capabilities,” said Stella Guillen, Isar’s commercial director, in an interview. The new funding should allow Isar to work on the reusability of its launchers, a key point in the development of a space company. With nearly 180 employees, Isar Aerospace is today the most promising private European space project.
Spectrum: the right European light launcher?
The development of Spectrum is of great interest to many people in Europe and the spin-offs of its progress could be exponential for Isar, which has (almost) no competition on the old continent. Indeed if the ESA, the European space agency works of course a public light launcher, Vega, this last one suffers from many problems and is for the moment more a financial abyss than a technological success for the space agency. The setbacks of the Italian launcher (Vega is built near Milan) could therefore be beneficial to Isar, which although private, seems to be the ideal solution to continue launching satellites into orbit from Europe.
Technically, Spectrum is a classic light launcher. It has two stages and can place one ton in low earth orbit. It uses Aquila engines, also from the Isar factory, which gives it a rare independence in the aerospace world.
Tests of these engines should begin soon. A test bench in Sweden is waiting for the engines, which could be put to use before the end of the summer. The German company should then remain in Scandinavia, as Isar is working on the construction of a launch pad in Norway.
The company had already signed an agreement last April with Andøya Space for the use of the spacecraft.lation of an exclusive platform on the Norwegian launch site. This is a strategic position for Isar, far from the other European base at Kourou, which launches into orbits close to the equator. A launch from Norway could thus allow for very different orbits, a new way for Isar Aerospace to stand out in this very competitive market.
First launch in 2022
Concerning the young company’s schedule, a first launch is expected from Andøya at the end of next year. In 2023, Isar hopes to launch three to four times before finding its cruising speed, with nearly one launch every month. To fill the Spectrum rockets with payloads during these first missions, the young company can count on several customers like Airbus Defence and Space as well as the German space agency DLR.
The latter had set up a competition between three German companies to win the contract, finally Isar beat Rocket Factory Augsburg and HyImpulse Technologies.
The DLR and, to a lesser extent, the ESA are strong supporters of Isar, which has announced that it is working “hand in hand” with the two agencies. With numerous contracts, the young German company does not want to limit itself to the old continent to seek new customers. “Obviously, Europe is a big market for us, but we also see the potential for growth in Asia and the US,” said Gullien.