|Industry||Launch service provider|
|Raúl Torres (co-founder & CEO); Raúl Verdú (co-founder & CBDO); Eleazar González (CTO); Juny Crespo (COO)|
|Services||Suborbital & Orbital rocket launch; Rocket engine testing|
Number of employees
|~ 40 (May 2018)|
PLD Space is a Spanish company developing reusable cost-effective launch vehicles. Currently, the company is developing two rockets; Arion 1 and Arion 2. Arion 1, the company’s first launch vehicle, is designed as a sounding rocket for sub-orbital flights to perform research or technology development in microgravity environment and/or in the upper atmosphere. Furthermore, Arion 1 has been conceived as the technological demonstrator of the orbital launcher of Arion 2. Arion 2 provides orbital capabilities for small payloads such as CubeSats or microsatellites, that need a flexible and dedicated launch vehicle and therefore can not fly with traditional launch vehicles. It can deliver a payload mass up to 150 kg into a 500 km Sun-Synchronous Orbit.
PLD Space was founded in 2011 by Raúl Torres and Raúl Verdú in Elche (Spain), and currently employs 40 people.[when?] In August 2017 the company headquarter moved to new facilities in the Elche Industrial Park, where also the assembly facilities for Arion 1 are located.
Since 2014 the company is operating a liquid fuel engine test stand, located at the Airport in Teruel. Here, PLD Space successfully accomplished the first test of its liquid fuel engine on the test stand on July 1, 2015. It was at the same time, the first time ever a liquid rocket engine was tested in Spain, and the first one a private company in Europe had developed privately a liquid rocket engine and had tested in its owned facilities. Currently they plan to expand their test facilities to include a vertical test stand to qualify the entire Arion 1 suborbital rocket.
The company has been funded through a series of investment rounds with institutional and private sources and up to now gathered investments worth around $10 million. In 2013 they closed a $ 1.6 million investment round, including a seed contract by the Spanish Government through the Technological and Industrial Development Centre (CDTI). PLD Space secured its first commercial contract as one of the partners in the Small Innovative Launcher for Europe (SMILE) program with the European Commission and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in December 2015. The company is responsible for testing liquid propulsion engines for the DLR at its propulsion test facilities in the Airport of Teruel. In April 2016 PLD Space secured a further $1.56 million from Spain's TEPREL reusable launcher engine program. TEPREL (Acronym for Spanish Reusable Propulsion Technologies for Launchers) will help PLD Space to continue their liquid rocket engine program, the first one in Spain dedicated to boost the small satellite industry in Europe. This project will help PLD Space to have a 35kN rocket engine qualified for flight. In October 2016, The European Space Agency (ESA) selected PLD Space as the prime contractor for the "Liquid Propulsion Stage Recovery" project (LPSR) as part of the Agency’s Future Launchers Preparatory Program (FLPP). The goal of this project is to study a strategy to recover the first stage of a launcher, making it reusable, with a prospected funding of $800,000. In a second investment round, closed in January 2017, the company secured $7.1 million, $3.2 million of that contributed by GMV. GMV also took the role to develop the complete avionics of Arion 1 and Arion 2, including Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC), telemetry and onboard software of both launchers. PLD Space received further $2.34 million in January 2018 through the European Commissions Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) Instrument Phase 2, as part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program for research and innovation, a grant to support to the development of a pair of launchers designed for small satellites. In February 2018 PLD Space was one of the five companies chosen by ESA to perform a feasibility study proposing an economically viable, commercially self-sustaining microlauncher. For this, the company received a funding of $368,000, being the only SME in being awarded of this contract.
PLD Space is developing a liquid propelled rocket engine technology to be used on their launchers. The TEPREL engine, called after the Spanish reusable engine program that is financing its development, uses kerosene and liquid oxygen as propellants. So far, several versions of this engine, intended to propel Arion 1, have been developed and tested on the company’s own liquid propulsion test facilities located in Teruel, Spain.
In early August 2018, PLD Space and the Teruel Airport Consortium signed the concession of a 13,337 m2 space at the airport for the PLD Space to test launcher technology. The agreement has a period of 25 years, with the option of an additional 10-year extension. PLD Space will invest Euro €1M in infrastructure for the construction of a new control room, offices, access paths, a rocket engine maintenance hangar and a new test bench to test the complete Arion 1 rocket. 
The TEPREL-DEMO engine was first tested in 2015. It is a calorimetric engine model, intended to demonstrate combustion stability as well as to acquire relevant information such as ignition and shut-down sequences, pressures and temperatures along the engine, thrust and propellant mass flow rates at different thrust profiles. Additionally, the engine served to test all associated hardware and software at PLD Space propulsion test facilities. The engine is capable to produce a thrust of 28 kN at sea level.
With the TEPREL-A engine, first tested in 2017, the company included several design upgrades, such as an improved injector geometry and a regenerative cooling system. The later enables the engine to fire for nearly 2 minutes, which is the envisaged nominal functioning duration for the suborbital launch vehicle Arion 1. At sea level the engine produces a thrust of 32 kN.
TEPREL-B is the first flight version of the TEPREL engine. Several design improvements have been implemented to reduce the overall weight of the engine. Additionally, it is equipped with a thrust-vector-control system.
Arion 1 was originally proposed as a two-stage rocket capable of achieving suborbital flight. It was originally planned to be 12m long, with a capacity of 250 kg (551 lb). The engines were to use liquid oxygen and kerosene as propellants.
In its final design, Arion 1 is a 12.7 m long 0.7 m diameter one stage rocket, propelled by PLD Space’s TEPREL-B engine. The vehicle can fly a payload of up to 200 kg on a suborbital trajectory. In its first mission it will carry 100 kg of payload to an apogee of 150 km. Additionally, Arion 1 is equipped with a recovery system, that enables PLD Space to recover and re-use the complete launch vehicle. With this, it will be the first recoverable launch vehicle in Europe. Arion 1 is intended to be used for scientific research or technology development in a microgravity environment and/or in the upper atmosphere. Furthermore, about 70% of the technology developed on Arion 1 is planned to be used on PLD Spaces microlauncher class rocket Arion 2.
The first test flight of Arion 1 is foreseen to take place in the middle of 2019 followed by a second test flight at the end of the year. The commercial flight service will begin in 2020 with the numbers of flights increasing from year to year. Targeted are up to eight suborbital launches per year.
Arion 2 is a 20.7 m long three-stage launch vehicle, capable of inserting 150 kg of payload into a 400 km low earth orbit. All three stages are planned to be liquid propelled and are designed to reuse most of the technology that is developed for Arion 1. The first stage is planned to be capable to be reused several times.
The first test flight of Arion 2 is planned to take place in 2021.
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