Capitalism in space: The German startup rocket company Isar Aerospace announced today that it has raised $75 million, bringing the total in private investment capital it has obtained to $180 million.
The initial funding had funded construction of their Spectrum smallsat rocket. This new funding the company says will be used to expand their manufacturing and to begin work on making their rocket reusable.
Spectrum, the rocket Isar is developing, is a two-stage vehicle designed to place up to 1,000 kilograms into low Earth orbit. The vehicle is powered by Aquila engines that the company is also building.
Guillen said the company is preparing to start tests of the full Aquila engine soon on a test stand in Kiruna, Sweden. Isar is also working on a launch site in Norway, having signed an agreement in April with Andøya Space for exclusive use of a pad at a new site under development by the state-owned launch site operator.
A first launch of Spectrum from Andøya is expected in the second half of 2022, she said. The company expects to conduct three to four launches in 2023, with a long-term goal of about 10 launches per year. While Andøya is well-suited for launches to sun-synchronous orbits, Isar is considering alternative launch sites, such as French Guiana, for missions to lower inclination orbits.
Isar is one of three German smallstat rocket company startups, and appears from all accounts to be ahead of the other two, Rocket Factory Augsburg and HyImpulse Technologies, in funding and development.
There is some long term historical context to these German rocket companies. Following World War II, Germany was forbidden to build such things, both legally and culturally, as rockets too closely resemble the V2 rocket used by Hitler to bomb Great Britain. Even when Germany joined the European Space Agency as a partner the rocket building was left mostly to the French and the Italians.
This has now changed, partly because the rockets are small, partly because Europe has been shifting to the capitalism model in its space industry, partly because the memories from World War II have faded, and partly because ESA’s subsized effort at Arianespace to build a new low-cost replacement for its Ariane 5 rocket has not been successful. The Ariane 6 costs too much, and is thus not garnering customers from within ESA.
I think it will be really great to start listing separate European private companies in my launch race updates. Doing so will only emphasize the global acceleration of the competition to get into space.
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