PLD Space Profile: Future Small Satellite Launcher8th Mar 2021
PLD Space, a Spanish company, is currently developing two types of rockets, the suborbital Miura 1 and the orbital Miura 5, for both scientific and commercial purposes. Launching small satellites into orbit with light-class rockets is much more profitable than with heavier rockets. These launches are cheaper, more mobile, and less harmful to the environment.
PLD Space – the future of the European launch market
The rapid development of NewSpace and the expansion of the small satellite market have increased the demand for private launcher companies capable of providing a full range of launch services at an affordable price. 2-3 years ago, the cost of sending 1 kg of payload into orbit ranged from $30,000-$50,000, however today we are talking about much smaller numbers, around $10,000-$15,000. These low cost launches were achievable by using innovative technologies in the production of rocket components and fuel, which made it possible to reduce costs and time for the production cycle. The pre-flight preparation takes less time now as well, making it possible to increase the frequency of launches.
As a result, the newest light-class spacecraft, such as Electron by RocketLab and LauncherOne by Virgin Orbit, are already successfully operational. A dozen private launcher companies are waiting in line, planning to start launches in the next two years. One of them, PLD Space from Spain, intends to present two types of vehicles at once: Miura 1 and Miura 5.
What are Miura 1 and Miura 5?
Miura 1 is a one-stage rocket with a single TEPREL-B engine. It is designed for suborbital flights with a payload capacity of up to 100kg. Thanks to a special parachute system for a water landing, the vehicle can be collected from the ocean and reused. PLD Space hopes to be the first company in Europe to offer recoverable suborbital spacecrafts.
Miura 5 is based on Miura 1 technology but will have:
- Two or three-stage modification;
- Three times higher carrying capacity – 300kg;
- The possibility of launching payloads into a 500km SSO.
The addition of a third stage will allow the creation of circular satellite orbits. The first stage, designed after Miura 1, will be reusable.
PLD Space – a 10-year journey into space
PLD Space was founded in Elche, Spain, in 2011. Since then, it has expanded the company and now has 50 staff. The company owns production and assembly facilities in Elche and operates an engine test stand at Terprel Airport.
In February 2021, the company attracted an investment of $8.2 million. This PLD Space funding is planned to be invested in further spacecraft testing and development. $1 million will be used to develop airport infrastructure. The plans include the building of an office, control room, and hangars for engine maintenance.
The first launch of Miura 1 is scheduled for late 2021 – early 2022. The company already has two customers: Embry-Riddle Aviation University in Florida and the Centre of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity at the University of Bremen. Special sensors will record all flight details. PLD Space plans to use the received data for the further development of Miura 5.