German Aerospace Start-Ups Are Looking for a Site to Test Engines

16th Oct 2020
Lampoldshausen launch site

Attempts to Launch ISAR Rockets Lead to Protests in Reischach

It is to be expected that residents of Reischach in Lower Bavaria are not enthusiastic about the loud noises in unofficial places of testing the ISAR Aerospace missile engines with a combustion gas generator. However, Daniel Metzler, Co-Founder and CEO of ISAR Aerospace, reports that a maximum of three tests are carried out per day with a maximum duration of 150 seconds each. 

The area selection is not a coincidence. “We need endless testing facilities, also the location near the company’s headquarters,” says Daniel Metzler. Thus, the tests will continue to be carried out in Reischach, but only after measures have been taken to further reduce noise. Therefore, igniting entire engines is no longer possible there.

Difficulties the Companies Face in Test Stand Installation

RFA, together with ISAR Aerospace, have been negotiating for two years with German space agency DLR’s Lampoldshausen facility to launch a joint testbed at a proving ground northeast of Heilbronn. The DLR suggested using the €1.25 million that is still available to fund the rocket start-ups. The total amount of investments stands at €25 million, most of which was awarded by DLR and the Federal Ministry of Economics in the small launch vehicles competition.

Since the start-ups had to wait for a proposal from Lampoldshausen, ISAR Aerospace is setting up a testbed in Esrange in northern Sweden for the main tests. “So far, this has been a huge price difference compared to the test bench at Esrange, where the infrastructure is available free of charge, and we only need to build a testbed,” says RFA Co-Founder Jörn Spurmann. He is referring to the cost of the DLR test stand – thousands of Euros per month, including personnel, maintenance, and operational safety. 

Peculiarities of Cooperation with DLR’s Lampoldshausen Facility

According to the high DLR costs, RFA offers to write a proposal on the basis of which the test stand will be set up in Lampoldshausen if the DLR pays for the basic infrastructure. In return, RFA is ready to provide test data. If they reach an agreement, the level of quality will come closer to the conditions in the USA. 

However, HyImpulse has experience of being tested at DLR’s Lampoldshausen facility on the basis of the occupancy days calculating payments but now HyImpulse will also have to upgrade to a more expensive large-scale testbed – the same as those used for the Ariane launcher engines.

Professor Stefan Schlechtriem, who spent a year and a half researching at NASA in Silicon Valley, considers the cooperation of ISAR Aerospace, HyImpulse Technologies and RFA start-ups as a basically good decision. “We would like to promote research and development. However the sum would not be enough to complete all the necessary test campaigns, especially on a large test stand”, he claims. 

Even the DLR company spokesman has not yet been able to discuss expenditure. They are working “on a common concept of test facilities for launch vehicles.” Nevertheless, there are still no company inquiries “in which specific technical information is given in order to create an offer”.

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