An artistic rendering of Isar Aerospace's two-stage Spectrum launch vehicle. Credit: Isar Aerospace

JOHANNESBURG — German space agency DLR began accepting applications this week for institutional payloads to fly aboard a pair of Isar Aerospace Spectrum launches free of charge.

Munich-based launch startup Isar Aerospace beat out Rocket Factory Augsburg and HyImpulse Technologies in May to win a DLR microlauncher competition. As a stipulation to receiving the 11-million-euro ($13 million) prize, Isar Aerospace is required to launch institutional payloads aboard two demonstration missions of its Spectrum rocket slated for 2022 and 2023.

As of Aug. 31, DLR had begun accepting applications from European institutional customers interested in securing a place aboard the two Spectrum missions. 

Applicants must be national governments, agencies, public institutions, universities, or public research centers from European Union or European Space Agency member states. Other requirements include a maximum payload weight of 150 kilograms and a target orbit achievable from Norway’s Andøya Spaceport.

There is no predefined limit to the number of payloads DLR could select. The only stipulation is that the combined weight of the payloads cannot exceed 150 kilograms.

All standard launch services supplied by Isar Aerospace will be free of charge for the selected payloads. However, institutions will be liable for the cost of payload adaptors or dispensers and any non-standard launch requirements.

The deadline for applications is Oct. 31. The selection of payloads will be made by DLR in consultation with ESA. Although Isar Aerospace will not play a part in the selection of the payloads to be launched aboard its demonstration missions, it will assess the technical compatibility of each applicant.

Spectrum’s road to the launchpad 

The DLR-selected institutional payloads will be carried to orbit aboard Isar Aerospace Spectrum rockets, a two-stage launch vehicle powered by nine first-stage engines and designed to deliver up to 1,000 kilograms to low Earth orbit.

Isar Aerospace is currently entering a critical period in preparation for Spectrum’s debut. Over the coming months, the launch startup will be conducting “structural testing, engine testing, and fairing testing,” Isar Aerospace chief commercial officer Stella Guillen told SpaceNews

The debut of Spectrum is currently slated for the second half of 2022. However, this is dependent on whether the launch pad being built in Norway by the Andøya Space research institute will be fully operational in time.

Andrew Parsonson is based in Valetta, Malta, and has been covering the space industry since 2017.