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Let’s talk about Isar Aerospace

Europe in Space
Issue 24. Subscribers: 513 
My second launch startup deep dive is here and this time I’m looking at Germany’s Isar Aerospace. To my 13 new subscribers, welcome, and I hope you enjoy your first issue. If you have any comments, suggestions, or tips, please reply to this mail.
Quick announcement: I published the European Rocket Propulsion Index last week. The index aims to detail every propulsion system currently in use and those under development in Europe right now. It’s not yet comprehensive, but it’s getting there. If you have any additions or amendments, let me know.

A closer look at Isar Aerospace
The company
Isar Aerospace was founded in March 2018 by Daniel Metzler (current CEO), Markus Brandl, and Josef Peter Fleischmann. As of 2022, the company employs approximately 300 people and has offices, manufacturing sites, and test facilities in Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, and the US.
The funding
The company has been extremely successful with its funding efforts having raised over €180 million, more than any other European launch startup. The size of the company’s seed round was undisclosed but included investments from Vito Ventures, UVC Partners, and Bulent Altan. This was followed by a $17 million Series A which the company closed in December 2019 and included investments from Earlybird Venture Capital, Airbus Ventures, Apeiron, and existing investors. 
The startup’s largest funding round followed with Isar raising a $91 million Series B which closed in December 2020 and included investments from Lakestar, Vsquared Ventures, HV Capital, and existing investors. The most recent funding round saw the company close a $75 million second Series B in July 2021 that added Lombard Odier and Porsche SE to its list of investors. 
According to Isar, it is currently “well financed’ to continue the development Spectrum.
The financials
This section was provided by Capitol Momentum, a company European Spaceflight has been proudly partnered with since April. They are doing amazing work in analyzing the German NewSpace market and I recommend giving them a follow on LinkedIn.
As per its financial statement in 2020, Isar Aerospace has raised about €131.5 million in equity from its Series B round in 2020 (incl. the extended round in June 2021) as well as nearly €2m in debt. The net working capital increased 915% to €72m from 2019 and provides the startup with the flexibility to spend on progressing in its product development. 
The significant funding and liquidity situation leaves Isar Aerospace with a potential competitive advantage over its German competitors RFA and HyImpulse simply due to the ability to invest more capital. Based on its financials, we estimate the launch startup’s gross burn rate at about €620k per month in 2020, an increase of 57% from 2019.
The vehicle
Spectrum is a two-stage launch vehicle capable of deploying 1,000 kg payloads into low Earth orbit. The vehicle’s primary structure is constructed out of lightweight carbon composite, a decision the company says was made to allow production to be easily scaled up with the use of its automated production process. Spectrum stands at 28 metres tall with a diameter of 2 metres. 
The first and second stages of the rocket are both powered by the company’s LOX/Liquid Propane Aquila engines. The first stage utilises nine Aquila SL engines, each producing 75 kN of thrust. The second stage makes use of one Aquila VAC engine producing 94 kN of thrust.
The vehicle’s standard fairing will be approximately 6 metres tall with a usable volume of 13m3. No word yet on whether Isar will offer other fairing variants.
A maiden flight of Spectrum is currently scheduled for 2023. Once in operation, flights aboard the vehicle will start at around €10,000/kg to low Earth orbit.
The launch sites
Isar signed its first launch pad agreement with Andøya Space in April 2021. The agreement gave the German launch startup exclusive access to a launch pad at the Norwegian launch facility for up to 20 years.
Despite its relatively unknown profile, Andøya Space has a storied history. The facility was founded in the 1960s and has hosted over 1,000 suborbital launches. In 2018, the Andøya Spaceport initiative was established to develop an orbital launch facility which is currently under construction.
In July, Isar, along with six other European launch startups, was preselected by CNES to launch from a new commercial launch facility at the historic Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana. In a statement at the time, Isar COO Josef Fleischmann stated that the addition of Kourou would extend the company’s “global network of critical infrastructure.”
According to Isar, this pair of launch facilities will allow the company to offer a great deal of flexibility to its customers.
“We are convinced that the combination of our secured launch pads in Andøya, Norway, and Kourou, French Guiana, will provide an ideal and flexible combination of orbit inclinations,” Isar told me.
The contracts
Despite not having launched a single Spectrum mission to date, Isar has already managed to amass a healthy launch manifest. 
What’s next?
Isar is currently in the process of producing its maiden flight vehicle, while at the same time qualifying all systems of the rocket. According to Isar, the company is currently “focused on validating system designs through testing and where necessary doing final design tweaks.” 
The German launch startup is also preparing to begin engine testing at its facility at the Esrange Space Center in Sweden.
“We are working with full force towards our maiden flight. Seeing first flight hardware in production now underlines our progress as a completely vertically integrated company,“ Daniel Metzler told me. "Where others tried shortcuts at the price of dependencies through buy-decisions, we designed, built, and tested everything ourselves to be fully independent, something that is extremely valuable as geopolitics and global supply chains tense up.”
In addition to its work on developing and manufacturing Spectrum, Isar is also searching for a new home. The company is currently examining various options for a new, larger location in the Munich area. According to Isar, a final decision on the company’s new headquarters will be made as soon as they receive the necessary information from all stakeholders.
One last thing
I had hoped to clear up some confusion around why Isar had managed to announce its preselection by CNES to launch from the Guiana Space Center a week earlier than the six other companies. However, I have been completely unable to get to the bottom of it.
In a statement to me, Isar revealed that the company was unable to reveal any information and was only allowed to state that the announcement of its selection made by the company was prepared with input from CNES.
A source at CNES has also stated that the French space agency is equally silent preferring to avoid answering questions about the matter.
I will keep trying to get to the bottom of this one and if I do, I will publish the information in the newsletter.
Rocket launches coming to an Irish town near you - Ireland’s former taoiseach (comparable to a British Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has joined the board of Irish launch facility startup Suas Aerospace. Founded in early 2022, Suas Aerospace is currently preparing to raise an initial €10 million to begin developing an orbital launch facility based in Ireland. The company is registered to the National Space Centre in Cork.
What if I get a puncture? - ESA published its PneumoPlanet study outlining a potential design for a future lunar habitat at one of the Moon’s poles. The study was conducted by the Austrian company Pneumocell and included ultra-light inflatable structures covered in 4-5 metres of local loose regolith to protect the interior of the habitat from extreme temperature, meteorites, and cosmic radiation.
A friendly assist from Venus - ESA’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft completed a Venus flyby on Sunday approaching within 6,500 km. The flyby was conducted to adjust the spacecraft’s orbit to get better coverage of the Sun’s polar regions. Solar Orbiter was launched aboard an Atlas V in February 2020 and is tasked with capturing the first close-up images of the Sun’s polar regions, measuring the composition of solar wind and linking it to its area of origin on the Sun’s surface. This is the third flyby of Venus thus far with an additional five planned for the next eight years.
John Connor, I’m here to optimise you! - Welsh launch startup SmallSpark Space Systems unveiled its moore.AI optimisation technology which it expects to launch later this year. The standalone company describes the technology as a “next generation multi-objective black-box optimisation that easily integrates into your existing engineering workflow.” The announcement is the latest indication that SmallSpark is committed to diversifying its revenue stream with launch being just one of many aspects of its business. The launch startup is also working on its S4-NEWT satellite propulsion solution.
Those 5G conspiracy theorists are going to need a LOT of tinfoil - Luxembourg-based satellite 5G IoT operator OQ Technology announced that it had completed a €13 million Series A funding round. The round was led by Wa'ed Ventures (the venture capital arm of Saudi oil and gas company Aramco), and Phaistos. The company plans to utilise the funding to continue the development of its technology, acquire additional spectrum licenses, and grow its 5G IoT satellite constellation.
I’m going to need a fresh pot of coffee for this one - The UK’s Ministry of Defence released its 91-page UK Space Power document which outlines the broad principles and philosophy behind the use of the UK Armed Forces in the arena of space. This had previously been articulated in the UK Air and Space Power 2nd Edition document. However, with consideration of the fact that space is an independent operational domain, the Ministry of Defence made the decision to outline its position in a standalone publication. One of the key takeaways in the document is the increasingly blurred lines between civil, commercial, and military use of space which increases complexity in terms of ownership and liability.
The Germans team up to reliably deploy space tech - German space tech startups DcubeD and memetis have been awarded Zentrales Innovationsprogramm Mittelstand (ZIM) funding to develop PAKKS. The companies envision the resettable and testable release actuator replacing burn wires to provide a reliable solution to deploy cubesat and pocketqube solar arrays, antennas, solar sails, and radiators. Development on the PAKKS project began in July and will continue for 18 months, which includes the test campaign.
A name that sounds like a meme - Multipurpose satellite constellation operator Spire Global has selected French in-space propulsion startup ThrustMe to supply propulsion solutions for its new LEMUR satellites. The LEMUR 3U satellites will be equipped with the company’s I2T5 fully integrated 0.5U iodine cold gas propulsion system. The first LEMUR 3U satellites equipped with the new propulsion system will be launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare mission later this year.
Lowercase for the win - German space biotech company yuri signed an agreement with Sierra Space to carry its ScienceTaxi incubator aboard a Dream Chaser mission to the ISS in 2024. ScienceTaxi will be capable of carrying up to 38 individual experiment units offering temperature control, real-time data collection, and full automation. 
Welcome to the family 27 and 28 - ESA announced that Galileo satellites 27 and 28 have officially joined the operational constellation which transmits navigation signals to three billion users around the world. The pair of satellites are the first to broadcast an improved navigation message that will allow faster navigation data acquisition, more robustness in challenging environments like urban settings, and easier access to timing information. The new software will be uploaded to every Galileo satellite in orbit from this October improving the capability of the entire fleet.
Oh, you’re such a tease - The CEO of Welsh in-space manufacturing startup Space Forge, Josh Western teased an upcoming announcement tweeting "something exciting coming.” Space Forge is currently working towards launching its first demonstration mission aboard a Virgin Orbit LauncherOne flight later this year. The launch will be the first to utalise the new Spaceport Cornwall horizontal launch facility in the UK.
One small step for an Italian launch startup - Italian launch startup Sidereus Space Dynamics announced that it had completed structural tests of a prototype of its EOS launch vehicle. EOS is a small single-stage-to-orbit launch vehicle that is designed to be capable of delivering 15 kg payloads to low Earth orbit. The company also shared that it would begin construction of the next prototype of the vehicle this Autumn with low-altitude flight tests set to begin in early 2023. An orbital test flight is planned for late 2023.
Take me to your leader - French aerospace startup accelerator SpaceFounders has appointed Lucie Campagnolo as its new CEO. Campagnolo had previously held the position of Program Director at SpaceFounders. Before that, she spent 9 years at France’s Institute for Space Medicine and Physiology holding the position of downstream space application coordinator before she left.
School’s back for the summer - ArianeGroup announced that it would again be working with the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability, and Trust at the University of Luxembourg to hold the Space Propulsion Summer School event. According to ArianeGroup, this year’s event will explore the topic of “Space logistics – to, in and from space – future transfer vehicles and associated propulsion systems.” At the end of the event, participants will be able to pitch ideas to a panel made up of experts from ArianeGroup and the European Space Resources Innovation Centre.
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Andrew Parsonson

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