WASHINGTON — PLD Space has secured 40.5 million euros ($43.8 million) from the Spanish government after completing a preliminary design review of its Miura 5 launch vehicle.
The company announced Jan. 27 that it received the funding through the government’s PERTA Aerospace initiative to support development of the country’s aerospace industry. PERTE is the Spanish acronym for Strategic Projects for Economic Recovery and Transformation, a broader post-pandemic recovery effort.
The company won the funding after completing the preliminary design review (PDR) its Miura 5 small launch vehicle, a review that was then examined by an independent committee. The award is technically a loan, which will be paid off over 10 years once Miura 5 begins commercial operations, currently scheduled for 2026.
“The technical decision in favor of PLD Space confirms that our technological development strategy is sound and is based on a solid business plan,” said Ezequiel Sánchez, executive president of PLD Space, in a statement. “Winning this public contract to create a strategic national capability reinforces our position as a leading company in securing Europe’s access to space.”
Miura 5 is a small launch vehicle with a payload of up to 540 kilograms to low Earth orbit. The vehicle’s first stage is designed to be recovered through ocean splashdown and reused. Test flights are scheduled to begin as soon as 2025 from a launch site in French Guiana.
The vehicle builds on PLD Space’s experience developing the Miura 1, a suborbital rocket. That rocket flew for the first time in October from a Spanish military base, and the company declared that launch a success.
“We are fully focused on Miura 5 now,” Sánchez said in an interview in November. At the time, he said the company was working to complete the PDR by the end of the year, incorporating data from the Miura 1 flight.
In the statement about the Spanish government funding, PLD Space said it is now working on tests of components of the TEPREL-C engine that will power the rocket, as well as opening a new headquarters facility that will host initial production of the Miura 5. Work on the launch pad on French Guiana will begin in the second half of the year. To support that work, PLD Space plans to nearly double its workforce from its current 165 employees to 300 by the end of the year.
The company has not disclosed the projected cost of developing Miura 5. Sánchez said in the interview that the company has been very “equity efficient,” developing the suborbital Miura 1 for 30 million euros. “We are in the process” of raising more money, he said, with “very good interest” from institutional investors and family offices.
PLD Space was also one of five launch companies selected Jan. 23 to participate in the European Flight Ticket Initiative, an effort by the European Space Agency and European Commission to provide flight opportunities for technology demonstration payloads. The companies will be eligible to compete for task orders for launching individual missions.
That effort is seen as a first step to opening up a wider array of European institutional launches to competition. After a Space Summit meeting in November in Seville, Spain, ESA announced plans for a “launcher challenge” that would eventually lead to competition for a wider array of missions.
In a separate statement Jan. 26, PLD Space said that it met with members of the European Parliament to discuss those efforts. The company supports that challenge in general but has questions about how it will be organized and how many missions will be open to competition.
“ESA must promote competition, prioritizing market-driven strategies and competitiveness over the criterion of geographical returns,” Sánchez said in a statement about the meeting with parliament members.