Spain and Europe’s first-ever space rocket the MIURA 1 is ‘ready to fly’

Image of a MIURA space rocket from PLD Space. Credit: [email protected]_Space

The MIURA 1 space rocket, Europe’s first and based in Spain with PLD Space, is ready for its first launch after completing preliminary tests.

 

PLD Space, the company from Elche in the Spanish province of Alicante, has today, Thursday, September 15, announced the successful completion of the first qualification campaign for what is Europe’s first-ever suborbital space rocket, MIURA 1.

Unprecedented in Europe, the company has carried out the complete test of an integrated space vehicle flight mission. After passing all the relevant tests at its technical facilities in the municipality of Teruel, Aragon, the rocket is ready for its first launch. This highly-anticipated event is scheduled for the end of 2022 from El Arenosillo in Huelva province.

The qualification campaign consisted of a series of tests with the objective of ensuring that all the rocket’s subsystems work correctly. This was done in order to finally carry out a complete combined test and to verify that the rocket is ready for flight.

Although PLD Space had already tested and validated each of the subsystems that make up the launch vehicle, it had not yet tested all of them at the same time in an integrated manner.

This campaign consisted of several function validation tests and three static ignitions, also called hot tests or static tests. They comprised tests of five, 20, and 122 seconds. The latter, known as flight mission testing, is key to the future of the vehicle because it simulates all the conditions of a real launch, only without actually flying.

“We make the rocket truly think it’s on its way to space”, explained Raul Torres, the PLD Space Co-Founder, CEO and Launch Director. The 122-second test is equivalent to the time the motor stays on in a real launch. Its main purpose is to check the correct operation of all subsystems during a simulated flight.

With the information obtained in the different tests, the PLD Space team has been able to verify that each of the parts of the rocket works as expected, or, if not, to allow them to take advantage of this data to fine-tune all the parameters of the first unit of flight.

The MIURA 1 qualification campaign has been a success because no critical subsystem has failed. “We have collected a list of small modifications that require programmatic management, such as changing a component or updating a design that we need to improve; but nothing critical”, said Torres. “With each trial, we manage to evolve, and improve the flight rocket”.

A test that was aborted just six seconds before taking place on July 19 provided such data. The launch team detected a failure in the pressurisation of the oxygen tank, and, despite everything being ready for ignition, chose to cancel the test manually.

During the analysis carried out, PLD Space had the opportunity to obtain new information on the software and the ramp that it had already applied both in the last test and in the unit that will fly at the end of the year.

This campaign is a milestone not only for PLD Space but also for Spain and Europe. “We are the first private company in the history of Europe that has achieved this”, highlighted Ezequiel Sanchez, the executive president of PLD Space.

Regarding the ‘space race’ in Europe, Sanchez explained: “The market is accelerating and we are very pleased to be the first company in Europe to have a ready-to-fly rocket. This fact makes our project strategic not only for our country but also for Europe and is a clear reference to the profitability of investing in innovation and attracting talent”.

The launch team will now be in charge of analysing all the data obtained in the qualification campaign and checking what changes are necessary to incorporate into the MIURA 1 flight unit. This unit is already being manufactured by the operations team ready for the end of this year and is expected to be completed by October.

After undergoing some final tests at the company’s own test bench at Teruel Airport, it will be sent to Huelva for its inaugural flight. The PLD Space Engineering team is already working on the final design of its orbital vehicle, MIURA 5, taking advantage of the information collected in this MIURA 1 test campaign.

Its objective is for the first unit to be launched in the middle of 2024 from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. 

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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