Éxito del Miura 1

Success of Miura 1: Prospects for the Spanish space industry


30 | 12 | 2023


Spain has become the tenth country in the world with direct access to space.

In the picture

Graphical representation of a Miura 1 launch [PLD Space].

The Spanish space industry took an important leap forward in 2023. On October 7, the airspace of El Arenosillo (Huelva) saw the liftoff of the Miura 1 reusable rocket, built by the local company PLD Space, founded just over a decade ago (2011). After two previous attempts, the third launch successfully achieved fill in the planned operation, managing to collect through its payload a large amount of information core topic for the future Miura 5, the goal final of this mission statement. The purpose is to finalize, with Spanish technology, a micro launcher that will be used to put small satellites into orbit.

The launch carried out by PLD Space is a milestone for the Spanish space industry, since it is the first time that a rocket is built with 100% national technology. In addition, the rocket is reusable, reducing production costs to the maximum, and placing business, in the words of its CEO Raúl Torres, as the third private entity to achieve such recovery and reusability requirements in the global industry. Spain thus becomes the tenth country in the world with the capacity for direct access to space, which is of undoubted geopolitical value, as it does not have to resort to other nations with greater capacity to carry out at least these missions of moderate objectives.

However, is Spain lagging behind in the space degree program ? Europe had been three months without launching a rocket -the last one was a mission statement of the Ariane 5 of the European Space Agency (ESA) that took off from the spaceport of French Guiana-, hence the relevance of PLD Space's operation. The trajectory of this startup has registered remarkable results in a short period of time and has good prospects for the future in the small satellite business. The new space era -the 'New Space'-, with an important entrance of private initiative, has boosted a global space sector that will bet more and more on these small satellites, to the detriment of the large satellites that needed to be financed by high budgets that only governments can afford.

Today space is no longer a monopoly, but hundreds of new players in the private sphere play their role core topic. PLD Space has been one of these players since 2011. As indicated from the sector, it has both institutional and financial support from the European Space Agency and the European Commission, in addition to Spanish public bodies such as the Center for Industrial Technological development and INTA (National Institute for Aerospace Technology). As a startup, the support received from the Government is important, together with the support of companies and other private investment funds.

The future mission statement Miura 5, scheduled to be launched in 2025 from French Guiana and reach orbit, has aroused great interest in the industry for several reasons. Firstly, this rocket will be reusable in its first stage, which will lower costs and allow it to compete with similar initiatives, whose path has been opened by Elon Musk's company and its Starship. Secondly, PLD Space will be able to tap into a small satellite market that is booming and has a currently underserved demand. According to business, the company expects to generate commercial interest of around 320 million euros.

The company will focus on being reliable and guaranteeing solid results for the medium and long term, on the speed of its takeoffs.Raúl Verdú, co-founder of business , said: "We see a degree program, of course, to be the first. But I think the most difficult thing is to be reliable".

However, PLD Space is not short of competitors. Among them is the consortium formed by HyPrSpace, Telespazio France and CT Ingénierie, which has received financing from the French state for its project PADA1, worth 35 million euros. The first goal will be the launch in 2026 of the suborbital hybrid rocket Baguette One, which will contribute to perfecting the orbital launcher OB-1 (Orbital Baguette One), which will be reusable, like the Miura, but will be able to carry a payload of 200-250 kilograms (compared to the Miura's one ton). Despite this difference, France is positioned as another European competitor for the leadership of the 'New Space'.

development of the Spanish space sector

The Spanish space sector is particularly active in international and European missions, with a turnover 1,065 million euros in 2021, including indirect activities, which accounted for 0.1% of the national GDP (0.9 of the industrial GDP). It employs 5,890 people directly (more than 12,000 including indirect jobs as well), placing it in fifth place in Europe in terms of workforce, as listed in the latest yearbookassociation Spanish Defense, Security, Aeronautics and Space Technology Companies (TEDAE). Another fact that gives an idea of the development of the sector worldwide is that 1,400 new satellites were to be launched in 2021.

It is worth highlighting the fact that Spain is capable of producing in national territory elements of any stage of the space technology production process. This is relevant because in the space industry, being a strategic activity, it is common to move the headquarters to the country of the main shareholder. Therefore, it is important to have a good amount of financing coming from Spain, in order to keep all possible benefits in the country itself. In the words of Jorge Potti (vice-president of TEDAE space), Spain should seek to keep the control centers of European projects such as IRIS2 on national territory. To this end, the public sector plays a role core topic. The downstream market (focused on satellite applications and services), which currently has a high volume of business, needs to be supported by a solid upstream market (focused on the construction of ground segment facilities, where launchers or satellites come in). The latter requires large public investment. More than 60% of the turnover in the ground segments comes from government budgets. Thus, it could be said that a space sector that lacks strong government investment has little future. However, as we have seen, space currently has both public and private players.

However, it could be said that in Spain the space sector relies on a combination of its own funds from government institutions and European funds, as well as an emerging private sector and startups. Firstly, as a country of the European Union, it participates in the European Space Program and, consequently, in the Multiannual Financial framework (2021-2027), which devotes up to 2,300 million euros to the development of this sector, within the section of the single market, innovation and digital Economics . In 2023, the Spanish government's contribution to ESA increased by 20% to 300 million euros; for its part, almost 1,700 Spanish companies benefited in the last ten years from 250 billion euros coming from Europe.

This high presence of Spain in European Space Agency projects and other international programs is crucial. The Space Defense Industry Summit held in Seville on October 25-26 showed a Spanish space industry that is undoubtedly booming. At the quotation, numerous Spanish companies signed up for ESA programs. Added to this was the election of two Spanish astronauts (Sara García Alonso and Pablo Álvarez Fernández) to the agency's main body, a milestone that had not occurred for 30 years.

An example of project to be highlighted is the contract signed in the framework of Copernicus, related to Land Surface Temperature Monitorings (LSTM). This mission statement will be led by Spanish industry, through Airbus Space Systems España, the only business in the country with the capacity to build complete satellite systems, and with sales of 150 million euros. The contract is valued at 380 million euros, and includes the development and construction of two satellites to forecast the earth's natural resources. In addition, Airbus Spain has the largest carbon fiber factory in Europe, capable of producing everything in one piece, from Getafe (Madrid).

Another project to highlight is the Atlantic satellitenetwork , which will launch 16 satellites, and which has led to an increase in public investment in aerospace to 2.71 billion euros. The satellites will be jointly produced by Spain and Portugal and will be used to monitor climate change.

The undoubted test of this public-private transversality is the Spanish Space Agency, founded in April 2023. Its main objectives, among which are the definition of a National Space Plan and a Space Law, show Spain's commitment to promote a quality space sector with medium and long term results, creating employment. All of this is based on an initial budget 700 million, which will grow as results are achieved, thanks in part also to the existence of private companies such as PLD Space, opening up so many prospects for the future.

Finally, Spain already has a large number of renowned private companies dedicated to the sector, issue . Hispasat, headquartered in Madrid, is the main communications bridge between Europe and America. Hisdesat, in addition to producing satellite services for the country's government defense, has renowned projects such as the Spainsat satellite, whose tracking is done from Madrid and the Canary Islands, carried out in partnership with large subsidiary companies of Airbus D&S and Thales Alenia Space. Airbus Space Systems España (a subsidiary of Airbus D&S and business leader in the Spanish space sector) has developed the PAZ satellite, the first Spanish radar satellite.

Achievable aspiration

At final, it could be said that the outlook for the future of the Spanish space sector is positive, with great aspirations in the medium and long term. To achieve the objectives, Spain will have to take advantage of the boom of its renowned private companies and startups, increase its participation in European and international projects, and make the most of the new Spanish Space Agency, with a close and transversal partnership between the public and private spheres. In addition, following the high demand for small satellites, much more affordable and with great future benefits, funds should focus on emerging companies with revolutionary ideas in this market, such as PLD Space. If the government takes the initial risk, these companies could grow exponentially, making a place for themselves in the international space sector and becoming reliable and indispensable partners for large companies on a global level. All this, together with investments in human and technical capital and technological independence, will increase the confidence of external actors, and will position Spain as one of the irreplaceable partners of the industry.