The competition of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) started back in May 2020. German startups will be funded with 25 million euros to develop and commercially operate microlaunchers. Three of five applicants qualified in the preliminary round. In addition to the winner, HyImpulse and Rocket Factory Augsburg each received 500,000 euros and were allowed to develop further concepts for the main round.
Today, Isar Aerospace was announced as the winner of the competition. The victory is not only associated with a great deal of media hype, but also with funding amounting to 11 million euros. The Bavarian startup from Ottobrunn near Munich also secured its first transport orders. The sum is to be used for two test flights of its "Spectrum" carrier, which are to have taken place by 2022/23.
Spectrum is a two-stage rocket that is 27 meters long and can carry between 700 kg and 1,000 kg. It is used to launch microsatellites into orbit.
The development of launchers in industry rather than by government institutions opens up new opportunities, but also competition. Germany wants to be in on the action, says Thomas Jarzombek, the German government's coordinator for aerospace: "This is a radical change of paradigms. Germany is thus gearing up for a new era of space travel, which is moving from manufacture to industry. We want to be at the forefront here and further expand our status as the No. 1 location in Europe."
In the third phase of the competition, second place will be awarded in 2022. This is also endowed with 11 million euros. The microlauncher competition is part of ESA's C-STS program. The Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support Program aims to support transportation services by private-sector companies.