Isar Aerospace to launch OroraTech wildfire monitoring cubesat constellation

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JOHANNESBURG — German launch startup Isar Aerospace has signed a contract with OroraTech to launch the company’s wildfire monitoring cubesat constellation.

Isar Aerospace is developing its two-stage Spectrum rocket to launch payloads of up to 700 kilograms to sun-synchronous orbit. The maiden flight of Spectrum is currently slated for the second half of 2022.

Under the contract announced Sept. 7, Isar Aerospace will conduct multiple Spectrum launches to deploy more than 10 OroraTech cubesats into sun-synchronous orbit between 2022 and 2026. OroraTech will also retain the option for additional flights to launch its full constellation of several hundred cubesats aboard Spectrum missions.

Munich-based startup OroraTech was founded in 2018 to develop an early-warning system for wildfires, which are estimated to have cost the United States between $7 billion and $13 billion in 2020 alone.

Thomas Grübler, co-founder and chief executive of OroraTech told SpaceNews in June that the company would begin launching a “minimum viable constellation” of its dedicated wildfire monitoring cubesats by 2023.

OroraTech currently offers its service by utilizing data from various available satellite sources, like those from Europe’s Copernicus program. The dedicated wildfire-monitoring cubesats are, however, necessary to ensure the company can provide early warnings for wildfires at critical times during the day.

“We identified that there is a huge lag in public data in the afternoon orbits, but in the afternoon, most fires start,” said Grübler. “With our first 14 satellites, we’re going to double the chance of reaching a fire early enough.”

OroraTech is the second customer to sign a launch contract with Isar Aerospace after Airbus Defence and Space agreed to launch an Earth observation satellite aboard a Spectrum rocket in April. Since then, the fledgling launch provider has secured an additional $75 million in Series B funding and won German Space Agency DLR’s microlauncher competition beating out Rocket Factory Augsburg and HyImpulse Technologies to secure the 11-million-euro ($13 million) prize.