PLD Space Completes Qualification Campaign for MIURA 1 Suborbital Launcher – Parabolic Arc
- PLD Space successfully completes for the first time in Europe a flight mission test of a microlauncher
- The objective has been to ensure that all components of its suborbital space vehicle are working properly or, failing that, to fine-tune the parameters of the first flight unit
- During 122-second test, rocket ‘thinks’ it’s on its way to space
- After passing this test campaign, MIURA 1 is ready for its first launch, scheduled for the end of 2022 from El Arenosillo (Huelva)
EL ARENOSILLO, Spain (PLD Space PR) — PLD Space, the leading Spanish company in space launch activity for small satellites in Europe, has just successfully completed the first qualification campaign for its suborbital rocket, MIURA 1. The company is making history once again by carrying out , for the first time in Europe, a full test flight mission of an integrated space vehicle. After passing all the relevant tests at its technical facilities in Teruel, the rocket is ready for its first launch, which remains scheduled for the end of 2022 from El Arenosillo (Huelva).
This qualification campaign consists of a series of tests which have the objective of ensuring that all the subsystems of the rocket work correctly to, finally, carry out a complete combined test, in charge of verifying that the rocket is ready to fly.
If PLD Space had already tested and validated each of the subsystems that make up the launcher, it had not yet tested them all integrated. A definitive test to continue moving forward in the planned program of MIURA 1.
In concrete terms, this campaign consisted of various operation validation tests and three static ignitions (also called hot tests or static tests): five, 20 and 122 seconds. The latter, known as flight mission testing, is key to the future of the vehicle as it simulates all the conditions of a real launch, but without actually flying. “We really make the rocket believe it’s on its way to space,” says Raúl Torres, co-founder, CEO and launch director of PLD Space.
This 122-second test is equivalent to the time the engine stays on during an actual launch. Its main purpose is to verify the proper functioning of all subsystems during a simulated flight. Thanks to the information obtained during the various tests, the PLD Space team was able to verify that each of the parts of the rocket works as expected or, if this is not the case, take advantage of this data to refine all the parameters of the first unit. flight.
The MIURA 1 qualification campaign was a success as no critical subsystems failed. “We’ve put together a list of small changes that require programmatic management, such as changing a component or updating a design that we need to improve; but nothing critical,” says Torres. “With each test, we manage to evolve and improve rocket flight.”
This is, for example, the type of learning acquired after having aborted only six seconds before the test which was to take place on July 19. The launch team detected a failure in the oxygen tank pressurization and, with everything ready for ignition, elected to abort the test manually. During the analysis carried out, PLD Space had the opportunity to obtain new information on the software and the ramp that it has already applied both in the last test and in the unit that will fly at the end of the year.
Committed and reliable team
The favorable result of these tests responds to the accumulation of years of work by PLD Space. The engineering team, which designed how to get to this point, and the operations team, which is responsible for the fabrication and integration of the rocket, were key to reaching this milestone. “In Teruel we are about 15 people carrying out the trial, but we are standing up and lobbying for the more than 115 people who make up PLD Space. This step is an important step for all of us,” acknowledges Torres.
At the company level, the success of this qualification campaign also represents a milestone of very relevant value for the company. “We achieve very high levels of quality and certainty. Whenever the team plans a complex operation, they execute it in a timely manner. This is something our customers will appreciate in the future. If it had been an aerial operation, the rocket would have taken off on time without causing any delays,” says co-founder and director of business development, Raul Verdu .
Pioneers in Spain and Europe
This test campaign is not only an important step for PLD Space, it is also an important step for Spain and Europe. On the one hand, it is the first time that a full flight mission test of a fully integrated launch vehicle has been carried out. “We are the first private company in the history of Europe to achieve this,” said PLD Space Executive Chairman Ezequiel Sánchez.
On the other hand, this success contributes to placing Spain in a “position of strength” in the European space race. “The market is accelerating and we are very happy to be the first company in Europe to have a ready-to-fly rocket,” says Sánchez. “This fact makes our project strategic not only for our country but also for Europe and is a clear reference to the profitability of investing in innovation and attracting talent.”
Next steps for MIURA 1 and MIURA 5
The progress of PLD Space follows the planned technical program. The launch team will now be responsible for analyzing all the data obtained during the qualification campaign and verifying the necessary changes to be integrated into the MIURA 1 flight unit.
At the same time, the Operations team has already launched the manufacture of this launch unit, which will take off from El Arenosillo (Huelva) at the end of 2022. This vehicle, which will incorporate the lessons learned during the fire tests, will be completed in the month of October. . After undergoing some final tests on the company’s own test bench at Teruel airport, it will be sent to Huelva for its maiden flight.
At the same time, the PLD Space Engineering team is already working on the final design of its orbital vehicle, MIURA 5, taking advantage of the information gathered in this MIURA 1 test campaign. The objective is for the first unit to be launched at mid-2024 from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
About the PLD Space
PLD Space is a pioneering Spanish company in the aerospace sector and a reference in Europe in the development of reusable rockets, with recognized prestige in the sector and a solid project that materializes in its launchers: the suborbital MIURA 1 and the orbital MIURA 5 Some of the rockets that will place Spain among the few countries capable of successfully sending small satellites into space.
With a decade of history, PLD Space plans to launch its MIURA 1 prototype at the end of 2022 and to undertake its first real space transport mission with MIURA 5 in 2024. The firm, based in Elche (Alicante) and having technical facilities in Teruel, Huelva and French Guiana, has already made more than 45 million euros of investment to promote its project in the space sector.