RFA Say Kourou Complements SaxaVord Launches

23rd Jun 2023
RFA Say Kourou Complements SaxaVord Launches

Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA) is set to launch from France’s Kourou Space Center (CGS) after signing a binding term sheet with French Space Agency, CNES. The long disused spaceport in French Guiana was only used by CNES’ Diamant rocket in the 1970s. However, with the reopening plan set, RFA will be one of the first NewSpace companies granted access to the facility with launches planned from 2025 onwards. 

Also known as the ELM-Diamant Launch Complex, the centre will complete a launch pad upgrade in coming years to ensure it’s ready.

Dr. Paolo Baiocco, senior project manager for micro-mini launchers at CNES, said,

“[we are] proud to sign this agreement with RFA, which confirms RFA’s decision to launch from the ELM Diamond site at CSG’s European Spaceport … We look forward to working with RFA to further develop launch activities in Kourou. This is an important step for European spaceflight.”

Dr. Paolo Baiocco

An Addition to Saxavord, Not a Replacement

RFA is also expecting to launch from Scotland’s SaxaVord Spaceport and has been granted exclusive access to one of their three launch pads. It seems that the company has different plans for the two sites, and that they will complement each other. Jörn Spurmann, Chief Commercial Officer at RFA, told Orbital Today that:

“We now have access to two complementary spaceports. The first launches will lift-off from SaxaVord in Scotland, from where we have access to polar and sun-synchronous orbits starting 2024. Kourou will enable lower inclination orbits as of 2025, such as to provide launch service to GEO, MEO, GTO, as well as lunar and interplanetary mission profiles. A complete launch service portfolio, that we can offer to our customers.”

Jörn Spurmann

What Will RFA Launch From CSG?

Through the agreement, the company believes they will be able to offer more flexible and precise servicing for any mission involving Earth observation, connectivity, and constellation satellite launches. With the establishment of their launch site at CSG, the launch provider said they will be able to deliver more mission profiles for the European Space Agency, in addition to their members and customers. 

Expected Launches From CSG

RFA became the first European nation to successfully complete a hot fire test on their stage combustion engines. Credit: RFA

RFA is set to launch their RFA ONE rocket – a three stage launch vehicle powered by the company’s Helix ORSC engines – from CSG in 2025. The rocket uniquely provides small satellite launch capability and payload delivery, in a capacity that no other commercial satellite launch companies can currently supply. 

In June 2023, the company became one of the first European firms to successfully complete a full-duration hot fire test on their staged combustion engines, and onlookers will see those engines in action when RFA ONE launches from CSG. Jörn Spurman said:

“This collaboration is a clear commitment to the future of European spaceflight from Kourou. We are very proud to launch from the historic Diamant launch site, where European spaceflight began its long and successful history. We look forward to continuing it.”

Jörn Spurman
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