The Spanish aerospace company PLD Space has won the second phase of the project for the development of a Spanish launcher for small satellites, framed within the Aerospace PERTE (Strategic Project for Economic Recovery and Transformation), which has a tender amount of 40.5 million euros. The company has been appointed as sole contractor, having earned the highest technical rating from the Contracting Committee, which consists of independent experts from the Centre for Technological Development and Innovation (CDTI).
This PERTE Aerospace initiative, promoted by the Spanish government, aims to cultivate a strategic national asset: access to space. To fulfil this ambition, the contract mandates that the selected bidder must design, construct, and conduct testing on an orbital launcher flight unit by 2025.
The project is managed through the pre-commercial public procurement (PCP) instrument of the CDTI, which operates on a counter-performance format, requiring the reimbursement of the received amount. This repayment will be made through the payment of royalties during the first 10 years of its commercial phase, scheduled to commence in 2026.
For the proposal assessment, PLD Space presented a meticulously detailed preliminary design review (PDR) of MIURA 5, which underwent a rigorous evaluation process by the independent committee of this PERTE Aerospace project, under the coordination of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities.
"The technical decision in favour of PLD Space confirms that our technological development strategy is sound and is based on a solid business plan," states PLD Space Executive President Ezequiel Sanchez. "Winning this public contract to create a strategic national capability reinforces our position as a leading company in securing Europe's access to space”.
MIURA 5 design maturity
PLD Space was already selected in the first phase of this PERTE project in July 2023, with a funding of 1.5 million euros per successful bidder, focusing on the launcher's design. Over the next six months, the company concentrated on achieving the required maturity level for the preliminary design (PDR) and on producing all the necessary supporting documentation.
"The team's efforts in compiling such an extensive volume of information of such high quality has been titanic," states the CEO and co-founder of PLD Space, Raúl Torres. Furthermore, the preparation of the preliminary design for MIURA 5 coincided with the launch and post-launch campaign of MIURA 1, allowing the company to incorporate the improvement measures identified from the first flight of the technology demonstrator. "Having a preliminary design of MIURA 5 with such meticulous detail significantly accelerates the timeline for its realization," Torres clarifies.
MIURA 5 Roadmap
The PERTE conditions are aligned with the key programme milestones outlined in PLD Space's strategic roadmap. The onset of 2024 is marked by the initiation of tests on mechanisms and components of the MIURA 5 engine (TEPREL-C), with particular focus on combustion chambers, gas generators, and turbopumps.
Concurrently, the year presents various infrastructural challenges that are key to the development of the company's orbital launcher. The first half of the year will witness the grand opening of PLD Space's new headquarters in Elche (Alicante), a facility designed for the manufacture and assembly of the preliminary MIURA 5 units. "We are building a unique industrial capacity within Europe, right from the local level, through the vertical integration and fortification of the regional and national supply chains. Doing this will endow us with enhanced stability, control, and agility," adds Raúl Verdú, the head of Business Development and co-founder of PLD Space.
In the second half of 2024, construction will begin on the launch base at the CSG European spaceport in Kourou (French Guiana), property of CNES. Additionally, this semester is scheduled for the subsequent phase of enlarging the company's test facilities at Teruel Airport.
Another major milestone will see PLD Space planning to increase its current workforce of 165 employees to a total of 300 by the end of 2024. During 2025, the focus will be on the qualification process and the maiden flight of the first MIURA 5 unit. The company expects to begin commercial operations in 2026 with the goal of exceeding 30 launches annually by 2030.
About PLD Space
PLD Space is a pioneering Spanish aerospace company and a benchmark reference in Europe for developing reusable rockets. With a solid reputation and steadfast commitment, the company has produced notable orbital launchers: the suborbital MIURA 1 and the orbital MIURA 5. These innovations position Spain among the select few nations capable of successfully deploying small satellites into space. PLD Space was founded in 2011 by Raúl Torres and Raúl Verdú with the aim of facilitating access to space. The company, based in Elche (Alicante) and with technical facilities in Teruel, Huelva and French Guiana, has a team of more than 160 professionals.