HELSINKI — Rocket Factory Augsburg has secured fresh investment as it pushes towards a first orbit launch attempt from SaxaVord, Scotland.
The German launch service provider has raised €30 million ($32.9 million) from global investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., or KKR. The convertible debt investment comes as RFA works towards a first launch of its RFA ONE rocket.
“The investment will facilitate RFA’s upcoming integrated first stage test and complete the company’s launch pad at SaxaVord Spaceport in Scotland, to eventually bring the RFA ONE microlauncher to the launchpad,” RFA said in a statement.
That launch is now scheduled for Q2 2024. The company was previously aiming to conduct the test flight in late 2023, according to comments in November 2022.
The three-stage RFA One launcher uses a cluster of 9 kerosene-liquid oxygen staged combustion Helix engines on the first stage. It is designed to carry up to 1,300 kilograms into a 300-kilometer polar orbit.
KKR will become a leading investor in RFA alongside the existing strategic investor OHB, according to the statement.
In a related development, KKR has acquired a minority stake in German satellite maker OHB with the intent to take the company private. The plans to delist are centered on giving OHB more flexibility to take advantage of a burgeoning commercial satellite market, Reuters reported.
KKR’s investment in RFA follows progress in a number of areas. RFA successfully conducted an upper stage hot fire test in May. In June the firm reached an agreement with the French space agency CNES to offer its launch services from the Kourou Space Center (CSG) in French Guiana.
Launches from the ELM-Diamant launch complex at CSG are to commence from 2025.
“KKR is excited to support RFA in its efforts to revolutionize access to space, which is crucial for emerging technologies that will shape our future,” Christian Ollig, Partner and Head of the DACH region at KKR, said in a statement.
“The team’s exceptional track record of achieving technical milestones and their unwavering focus on cost leadership are precisely the right strategy for future success in the global marketplace. We look forward to supporting RFA on its growth path.”
RFA says it offers “cost-effective and flexible launch services to space as global demand for access to space rises.”
The company is one of a number of European launch startups developing small launchers. These include Munich-based Isar Aerospace, Skyrora and Orbex based in the United Kingdom, and PLD Space in Space. Isar Aerospace raised $165 million in March this year as it works towards launch of its Spectrum launcher.
The companies are competing to reach orbit and secure customers as Europe suffers challenges in its ability to access space.
The much-delayed Ariane 6 is now not expected to launch until early 2024. The European Space Agency, CNES, Arianespace and ArianeGroup will hold a press briefing and question and answer session Sep. 4.