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The 'Miura 1' rocket, ready to take off and open the first Spanish door to space


Highlights: PLD Space plans to launch the Miura 1 demonstrator, a rocket 12 meters long by 70 centimeters in diameter. The first trip will be suborbital, since the range of the trajectory will be less than that necessary to put a body in orbit. An eventual failure of the demonstrator will help them avoid errors in the final model, with which they remain committed to have it ready in 2025. More than 500 satellites are expected to be launched each year on average over the next decade.

The artifact of the company PLD Space passes the last tests and expects an imminent launch this week if the weather allows it

Everything is ready for Spain to have one of the exclusive keys to space from the hand of a private company, PLD Space. The success of the latest ignition and thrust tests of the engines of its Miura 1 rocket, completed in mid-May, allow us to consider the jump into space, only pending the appropriate atmospheric conditions, disturbed the last two weeks by the instability on the coast of Huelva, from where the launch will take place. "Just having it on the ramp is already a success. But that it moves away and that we have the possibility of using that technology again will be key, "explains Ezequiel Sánchez, executive president of the company, who recalls an aeronautical saying: "If you do not fly, you lie."

To leave the club of flight promises and move on to the exclusive group of countries that can take an artifact into space (United States, Russia, China, Japan, France, Italy, India, South Korea and New Zealand), PLD Space plans to launch the Miura 1 demonstrator, a rocket 12 meters long by 70 centimeters in diameter that will serve to analyze all the data and flight systems that will be incorporated into its twin. Miura 5, which will already be 34.4 meters long and commercially capable of carrying payloads of up to 540 kilograms to Earth orbit.

The 'Miura 1', on the launch pad of Huelva.ALBERTO_DIAZ

A static pre-launch test, known as a hot test, has verified the perfect functioning of the rocket's systems (start, temperature and pressure) without leaving the platform. The test consisted of keeping the Miura 1 engine running at full capacity for five seconds.

"The goal is to achieve the ascending flight and reach the maximum apogee, which in this case is 80 kilometers," summarizes Sánchez. In this way, this first trip will be suborbital, since the range of the trajectory will be less than that necessary to put a body in orbit, which is located about 100 kilometers, but enough to leave the Earth's atmosphere and reach space.

During the 12-minute flight of the launcher, which incorporates two own experiments and 100 kilos of material from the German Center for Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM institute of the University of Bremen), the operation of all systems will be checked and, based on telemetry data, possible improvements to be applied in the Miura 5 will be analyzed. which will be 70% similar to the first aircraft.

The explosion on April 20 in flight of the Starship – the most powerful rocket in history launched by Space X, Elon Musk's company, after an investment that multiplies by more than 50 that made by PLD Space does not intimidate Spanish engineers. On the contrary. An eventual failure of the demonstrator will help them avoid errors in the final model, with which they remain committed to have it ready in 2025.

The 'Miura 1' ready for takeoff off the coast where it will land for the reuse of the device. PLD Space

"The Miura 1 is a technology demonstrator to apply all technology and information in the next development. It is as if, in Formula 1, instead of arriving directly and setting up a team, you start in Formula 3, which allows you to access those capabilities at less cost and more quickly, "says the president of the company.

Sánchez affirms that they already have the critical mass of personnel (140 workers), the financing of this first phase (50 million euros) and economic commitments to reach the final model. In fact, they are already expanding the facilities to move from the demonstrator, which can be considered a laboratory, to a larger scale.

The first Miura 5, the model with which they will enter the space transport market, will cost about 60 million and Sánchez estimates that they need to reach 160 million to reach the break-even point. From there, with the technological developments learned, the goal is to schedule 14 annual launches at an average cost for PLD Space below five million each with which to make the company profitable in an emerging market.

More information

Countdown to the jump into space of the 'Miura 1', the first reusable European rocket

More than 2,500 satellites under 500 kilograms are expected to be launched each year on average over the next decade. At present these operations are expensive and slow. "Small satellites can travel on large launchers, but this poses problems, such as the long time it takes to put them into orbit, since you have to reserve a place well in advance and wait for the shuttle to go to the exact place where you want to place the satellites. The companies that own these satellites need access to space in a personalized way," Xavier Llairó, co-founder of Pangea Aerospace in Barcelona, told Horizon magazine.

Raúl Verdú, co-founder of PLD Space in 2011, when he was only 22 years old, explained during the presentation of the launcher in Huelva last March that 77% of the satellites are less than half a ton and in that market they expect to reach a turnover of up to 150 million euros per year. "We can reduce costs and speed up the delivery of launchers," said the engineer. The European options for access to space are now very limited, between zero and two launches, something totally unusual for Europe and for this sector," added Ezequiel Sánchez.

Static test of the 'Miura 1' in mid-May. PLD Space

The Miura 1, ready already in the facilities of the Centro de Experimentación del Arenosillo (Cedea), a small portion of Huelva coastline between the coastal enclaves of Matalascañas and Mazagón, has already passed the most critical test: an exhaustive analysis of all systems for 122 seconds, equivalent to the time that the engine will remain on the day of its launch. During this review, carried out in Teruel last September, no failures were recorded in the fundamental subsystems, but it was observed that improvements could be made.

Based on this data, the steel of the initial model has been replaced by aluminum used in missiles, and the fins, aerobrakes and parachutes of the recovery system have been included, since the unit (like future launchers) will return to a maritime safety zone to be reused. The loading area has also been equipped with the mechanical, electrical and electronic infrastructure necessary to carry customer devices.


Sánchez congratulates the PLD company for the launch of Miura 1

Detail of the 'Miura 1' rocket. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP | Video: EPV

Two weeks ago, an ignition test was carried out again with the rocket without the cargo bay, the upper part intended for the transport of goods, as reflected in the video that accompanies this information. No significant failures were detected during this static test. "We could have considered it valid, but there was an observation that made us repeat the test to see the nominal thrust capacity," explains Ezequiel Sánchez. The second rehearsal was perfect.

"It is a technical, scientific, human and strategic milestone. The challenge has been to design the ship from scratch. Even the screws. All the tests have been passed and the Miura 1 is ready to fly," says Raúl Torres, the other co-founder of the company, along with Verdú, and also launch director.

Cargo bay area of the 'Miura 1'. Juan Luis Rod

However the flight test comes out, the project continues. "The Miura 1 is a technology demonstrator. We launched it to get the information and keep moving towards the Miura 5. That's where we have the focus. And in the necessary financing to be able to develop the investments and continue", concludes Sánchez.

Torres, who is also CEO of the company, insists on this aspect: "The objective is to collect as much data as possible to continue validating the design, technology and processes that will subsequently be transferred and integrated into the Miura 5".

PLD Space has had 30% public funding and claims to have half a dozen contracts with the world's leading space agencies. "We all consume space industry. Space will be the next internet because of its global impact," argues Verdú.

The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, said during the presentation of the launcher in Huelva that the Spanish aerospace sector as a whole represents an economic impact of more than 130,000 million, 1.2% of the national GDP, 5% of the industrial and, as he said, "a power capable of translating into 655,000 direct and indirect jobs".

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-05-29

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