A video still from a thrust vector control test of the Teprel-B engine PLD Space is developing for its suborbital Mirua 1 rocket. Credit: PLD Space via YouTube.

VALLETTA, Malta — Spanish launch startup PLD Space has completed critical testing of the company’s Teprel-B rocket engine. The engine is expected to power the single-stage suborbital Miura 1 launch vehicle.

In an Aug. 28 statement, PLD Space said it had successfully completed a series of thrust vector control tests on the kerosene-fueled Teprel-B rocket engine. According to a video posted to the company’s YouTube channel, the testing series included three hot-fire tests. Each test focused on a different element of the thrust vector control system in order to validate the “actuation, command and dynamic response.”

In a statement on Twitter, PLD Space co-founder and CEO Raúl Torres said that the engine had performed well with “excellent response in Pitch, Yaw and coupled domains.” He added that the company was now “a step closer to qualifying the engine for flight.” 

The thrust vector control testing was completed at the PLD Space Propulsion Test Facility in Teruel, Spain. The facility is located on the grounds of the Teruel Airport. PLD Space signed a 25-year lease agreement for the facility in 2018 promising to spend 1 million euros ($1.2 million) adding a test control center, stage hangar and three test benches. 

The completion of the Teprel-B thrust vector control testing follows a successful “burst test” in March of the Miura 1 composite overwrapped pressure vessel, which is used to pressurize the rocket’s propulsion stage during flight. A month earlier, the company completed its first full-duration Teprel-B hot-fire test, firing the engine for two minutes. 

This run of success stands in stark contrast to the company’s 2019 efforts. In May 2019, PLD Space suffered a catastrophic engine failure during a hot-fire test of the first flight version of the Teprel-B. The failure resulted in damage to the test stand and the destruction of the engine. It forced a nearly eight-month long investigation and redesign effort before the company was ready to return to the test stand.

With the successful completion of the thrust vector control testing, PLD Space is one step closer to launching the maiden Miura 1 flight. The mission will be launched from the El Arenosillo test range near Huelva, in southwest Spain.

Miura 1 is designed to launch 100 kilograms of payload to an altitude of 150 kilometers. According to PLD Space, once at altitude, the vehicle will experience as much as three minutes of microgravity before it returns safely back to Earth. The company hopes to launch as many as four Miura 1 missions a year.

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