WASHINGTON — Spanish launch startup PLD Space plans to conduct a suborbital launch before the end of the month to test technologies for its small orbital launch vehicle.
PLD Space said May 18 that it conducted a static-fire test a day earlier of its Miura 1 rocket on the pad at El Arenosillo, a site on the coast in southwestern Spain operated by the government’s National Institute for Aerospace Technology (INTA). In the test, the rocket fired its engine for five seconds to confirm it was working as intended.
The test clears the way for a suborbital launch of Miura 1 in a window approved by INTA that runs through May 31. The company said it could not disclose a specific launch date, citing security, weather, and the “dynamics involved in the launch operations.” It said that, once it sets a date after completing an INTA flight review, it will announce it up to 48 hours in advance.
Miura 1 is principally a technology demonstrator for Miura 5, a small launch vehicle the company is developing capable of placing up to 500 kilograms into orbit starting as soon as 2025.
“The objective of this first flight of the Miura 1 SN1 technology demonstrator will be to gather as much information as possible to further validate much of the design and technology that will later be transferred and integrated into Miura 5,” Raul Torres, co-founder and chief executive of PLD Space, said in a statement.
The company has not announced specific goals, such as altitude or flight time, for the Miura 1 launch. The company’s website says the rocket is capable of going up to 150 kilometers on a 12-minute flight.
“In this experimental flight, our definition of success is that the rocket should be as far away from the launch pad as possible,” Ezequiel Sanchez, executive president of PLD Space, said in the statement. “For every second Miura 1 is in the air, we will be learning and gathering data for the development of Miura 5.”
PLD Space is one of several European companies working on small launch vehicles. Some of those companies are planning their first orbital launches as soon as late this year, ahead of PLD Space.
That’s fine with the company. “For us, it’s not super important to be the first one in Europe to launch a rocket into space,” said Raúl Verdú, PLD Space’s chief business development officer, at a conference in February. “Our vision is to have the best success rate in the next decade, because that will make the difference.”
PLD Space has raised 60 million euros ($65 million) to date. The company said in March it was working on a Series C round of 150 million euros that will support development of the Miura 5 and beginning of commercial operations.