ESA awards €1.5 million to three German launch startups


VALLETTA, Malta — The European Space Agency awarded German launch startups HyImpulse Technologies, Rocket Factory Augsburg, and Isar Aerospace a combined 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million) to support development of competing microlaunchers.

The three support contracts announced Nov. 3 are worth 500,000 euros each and are the first awarded under Boost!, an ESA program that aims to foster new commercial space transportation services. The agency adopted Boost! during Space19+, an ESA ministerial-level council meeting held in November 2019, and announced an open call for proposals in April.

Each of the three Boost! contracts outlines specific outcomes the funding will assist the companies in achieving over the next six months.

HyImpulse is developing the three-stage SL1 launch vehicle, which is designed to carry payloads of up to 500 kilograms to low Earth orbit. The vehicle is expected to make its debut in 2022.

Under its Boost! contract, Neuenstadt am Kocher, Germany-based HyImpulse plan to use the ESA funding to finalize the SL1’s design and develop ground support equipment.

Rocket Factory Augsburg, the launch arm of German space technology company OHB SE, is developing its three-stage RFA One launch vehicle, which is designed to carry 1,300 kilograms to a 300-kilometer polar orbit. The vehicle is slated for a late 2021 maiden launch from Norway’s Andøya Spaceport.

The funding provided under Rocket Factory Augsburg’s Boost! contract is expected to support the development of a first-stage demonstrator for the RFA One.

Isar Aerospace is working on its two-stage Spectrum vehicle, which is designed to carry payloads of up to 1,000 kilograms to low Earth orbit. The maiden flight of the Spectrum vehicle is currently slated for 2021.

Isar plans to utilize its Boost! funding to further develop Spectrum’s control system and expand the company’s launch vehicle manufacturing line in Ottobrunn, Germany.

HyImpulse, Rocket Factory Augsburg, and Isar were submitted for consideration to receive ESA Boost! funding as the first-round winners of the German space agency, DLR’s microlauncher competition. The three-stage competitive development drive will award a combined 25 million euros in funding supplied by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and managed under the ESA Boost! program.