Spain’s PLD Space receives $2.4 million grant for smallsat launchers

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WASHINGTON — Spanish rocket startup PLD Space received 2 million euros ($2.4 million) from a European Commission grant program to further the development of a pair of launchers designed for small satellites.

The EC Horizon 2020 funds bring the Elche, Spain-based startup to more than 9 million euro raised to build the Arion 1 sounding rocket and the Arion 2 orbital rocket.

PLD Space co-founder and chief business officer Raúl Verdú said in a Jan. 10 statement that the company anticipates “the closing of an A2 investment round of 8 million Euro very soon.”

PLD Space anticipates a first launch of Arion 1 in 2019, followed by the Arion 2 rocket in 2021. Both debut missions have slipped by one year from the company’s previous estimates.

Around 70 percent of the technology needed for Arion 1 will overlap with Arion 2, according to PLD Space. The company hopes to make both rockets reusable using a mixture of parachutes and propulsive landing.

Arion 1 is designed to carry 100- to 200-kilogram payloads to suborbital altitudes while Arion 2 is being designed to haul some 150 kilograms to low Earth orbit.

PLD Space has raised financial and technical support from a mix of public and private partners, including Spanish ministries, the European Space Agency and Spanish technology company GMV, the latter of which gained an ownership stake in the company after leading a $7.1 million investment round in January 2017. GMV is building the avionics subsystems for the Arion rockets.