Isar Aerospace, a German rocket manufacturer, has raised €155 million ($167.57 million) in a new financing round to help it make progress towards its first launch in the second half of this year.
The funds will also aid in the development of its Spectrum launch vehicle, which is designed to put small and medium-sized satellites into orbit from the Norwegian Andøya Space launch facility.
Investors in the funding round include Porsche SE and HV Capital, both of whom will join the supervisory board of the Munich-based company. In addition, Isar Aerospace has conducted multiple hot fire tests of its Aquila engine, which will power the Spectrum launch vehicle.
The European space industry is in danger of falling behind, as outlined in a report commissioned by the European Space Agency last week. The report calls for a plan to get European astronauts on the lunar surface “within ten years” and emphasizes the need for more investment in the space industry.
Europe has only two operational rockets, the heavy-lift Ariane 5 by ArianeGroup and the Vega launch vehicle by Italian firm Avio, but a number of startups, such as Spain’s PLD Space, are looking to fill the gap in the launch market. SpaceX currently leads the pack in launch capabilities, with NASA completely reliant on the private space firm to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
Isar Aerospace’s CEO, Daniel Metzler, described the new funding as “an important milestone on our path to orbit,” The company’s CFO, David Kownator, added that Isar Aerospace has now raised a total of €310 million.
The company’s Spectrum launch vehicle is scheduled for its maiden flight later this year, and Isar Aerospace has signed a 20-year exclusivity deal with Andøya Space for one of its launch pads.
Isar Aerospace’s successful fundraising is a positive step towards strengthening Europe’s position in the space industry. However, with SpaceX continuing to lead the way in launch capabilities and with ambitious goals for Mars exploration, the competition is fierce. It will be interesting to see how Isar Aerospace and other European startups fare in the race to reach orbit.