Rocket Factory Augsburg, a leading rocket manufacturer in Europe, is preparing for its first-ever orbital launch attempt, marking a historic shift in the continent’s launch industry. This shift comes as a response to a “launcher crisis” caused by delays in the development of the Ariane 6 rocket.
The European Space Summit held in Seville, Spain recently introduced a new competitive approach to space transportation, with the aim of reducing reliance on public funding and empowering commercial companies. The European Space Agency (ESA) will now act as an anchor customer for commercial space activities and services.
Rocket Factory Augsburg views this shift as a positive development, as it allows ESA to save money, privatize certain aspects, and support a few companies in achieving space transportation goals. For Rocket Factory Augsburg, this means expanding its focus beyond the small launcher, RFA One, and considering development in the medium or heavy lift systems.
The company also sees an opportunity in ESA’s commercial cargo program. They aim to meet the deadline of 2028 to develop a cargo service to the International Space Station (ISS) and future commercial space stations. This could provide a significant opportunity for Rocket Factory Augsburg.
However, the immediate focus for Rocket Factory Augsburg remains on its first launch. The RFA One is a three-stage launcher with an impressive deployment capability of up to 1,300 kilograms to a 500-kilometer polar orbit or 450 kg to geostationary transfer orbit.
In preparation for this momentous launch, Rocket Factory Augsburg has successfully completed the full duration hot fire of the second stage. The company is now working diligently to complete the core stage and launch site, with plans for the launch to take place in the first quarter of 2024.
Excitingly, the launch will occur at the SaxaVord Spaceport located in Scotland’s Shetland Islands. The UK Space Agency has provided financial support for the preparatory efforts involved in this groundbreaking launch.
If successful, this launch could establish Rocket Factory Augsburg and SaxaVord Spaceport as significant players within Europe’s commercial launch services ecosystem. It represents a turning point in the European launch industry and sets the stage for further advancements in space transportation.