WASHINGTON — Latitude, a French company developing a small launch vehicle, has raised $30 million to produce its first rockets as it seeks to increase their capabilities.

The company announced Jan. 22 it raised $30 million in a Series B round, increasing the total amount raised to date to $55 million. Existing investors, including Crédit Mutuel Innovation, Expansion, the French government’s Deeptech 2030 fund and UI Investissement, participated in the round, along with Blast.club, Kima Ventures and an individual investor, Vincent Luciani.

Latitude, formerly known as Venture Orbital Systems, is developing Zephyr, a small launch vehicle designed to place up to 100 kilograms into low Earth orbit. The company is planning a first flight of the rocket in 2025, and the funding will support manufacturing and testing of that vehicle.

“Our investors’ continued support is a recognition of our 18 months of hard work, significant accomplishments and expansion to become a market leader by the end of the decade,” said Stanislas Maximin, chief executive and co-founder of Latitude, in a statement. This year “is a pivotal year for Zephyr’s first flight in 2025, and for serving our first customers.”

“The company possesses all the key success factors required to advance its R&D while accelerating its industrial momentum,” said Maxence Valero, investment director at Crédit Mutuel Innovation, the venture capital arm of French financial firm Crédit Mutuel Equity, in a statement. “Stanislas and his team have the expertise needed to lead the microlauncher industry in the future.”

Latitude said that the Series B round, besides supporting work on its first rocket, will also fund creation of an assembly line and being into operation a test center for liquid-propellant engines. The company, currently with more than 100 employees, plans to expand its workforce.

“This new investment gives the company all the resources it requires to be successful as it enters an industrial phase,” said Adrien Muller, the investment director of Bpifrance, which administers the French government’s Deeptech 2030 fund.

The company announced in December it plans to enhance the performance of Zephyr. It expects a new version of Zephyr to enter service in 2028 with a payload capacity of 200 kilograms, with a goal of producing up to 50 vehicles a year.

Latitude is one of several European startups developing small launch vehicles with the support of national and European government agencies, who are concerned about a “launcher crisis” on the continent caused by the loss of existing vehicles and delays and problems with new vehicles, like the Ariane 6 and Vega C.

“Europe needs to regain full sovereignty over space launchers. The development of healthy competition will result in the emergence of a diverse range of competitive players, potentially world champions,” said Charles Beigbeder, co-founder of Expansion, a European venture fund focused on aviation and space.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...