On 7 October, Spanish startup PLD Space successfully launched its Miura 1 rocket after two previously abandoned attempts earlier this year.
Miura 1, named after a breed of fighting bull, is the first rocket created by a private company in Europe. Although the goal was not achieved on the first test launch, it was designed to be recoverable and reusable, the feat which only three other European space companies have achieved.
The launch came 12 years after Raúl Torres and Raúl Verdú set up PLD Space. With this maiden flight, the Spanish company marks a turning point in the European space race, Spain becoming the tenth country in the world with the capacity to reach space.
This launch establishes PLD Space as the frontrunner in the European space race. We ventured into space fuelled more by determination than resources, yet we triumphed.Ezequiel Sánchez, PLD Space CEO
The launch took place at 02:19 am CET in the early hours of Saturday, 7 October, at the facilities of the El Arenosillo Experimentation Centre (CEDEA), belonging to the Spanish National Institute for Aerospace Technology (INTA). The flight lasted 5 minutes and 6 seconds, reaching an apogee at an altitude of 46 kilometres.
The mission concluded with Miura 1 landing in the Atlantic, most likely sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Although the team was hoping for the flight to last 12 minutes, out of which 6 in microgravity and reach an altitude of 80 km and despite not being able to recover the rocket, the company stated it is happy to have fulfilled the primary mission objectives related to engine thrust, trajectory tracking and launcher behaviour.
“Looking to the immediate future, the success of a test flight like this is measured by the insights we gain, insights that enhance our future reliability and success rate”, said Raúl Verdú, head of Business Development and co-founder of PLD Space. “We developed Miura 1 as a stepping stone to accelerate the technological advancement of Miura 5. With this mission’s success, our team is poised to rapidly progress towards the inaugural flight of Miura 5 – our ultimate goal.”
Miura 5 will be the company’s operational rocket, planned for an inaugural flight from Europe’s Kourou spaceport in French Guiana by 2025. If everything goes according to plan, the rocket will be launching small satellite payloads, with a capacity of 450 kg, 4.5 times more than Miura 1’s 100 kg.
According to the Guardian, Miura 1’s launch comes at a crucial time for Europe, as the continent has recently lost all its space reaching capabilities. As Russia cut access to its Soyuz launcher in response to sanctions after its invasion of Ukraine, Italy’s Vega has been grounded for technical reasons until the end of next year and the Ariane 6 launch, replacing Ariane 5, Europe’s largest rocket which had its last flight in July, being postponed to next year, all eyes are on the development of PLD Space to bring Europe back in the space race of this millennium.