PLD Space Awarded €2m Grant from the European Commission for the ARION Micro-Launcher Programme

PLD Space, the European micro-launcher company, has received €2m from the European Commission to boost the ARION micro-launcher development programme. The grant has been awarded through the SmallPLD Europea flag and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) Instrument Phase 2, a part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation.

This financial support is currently the biggest public support to PLD Space and one of the biggest European public supports for SMEs.

The grant will help PLD Space accelerate technological development of the ARION 1 launcher and contribute to its commercialisation in Europe. In addition, 70% of the technologies that will fly into space with ARION 1 next year will be directly transferred to ARION 2, PLD Space’s proposed Spanish small-satellite launcher, which will be entirely produced by European industry. ARION 2 is scheduled for its maiden launch in 2021 from European territory.

Arion 1 flight

The  ARION 1 launcher will launch next year

The SME Instrument is part of Horizon 2020, the European Union’s research and innovation support programme. It funds the most innovative projects of small and medium-sized enterprises, and aims to strengthen the innovation of European companies and assist in faster introduction of innovative products to the market.

Successful accomplishment of Phase 1 has strengthened the commercial case of PLD Space, thanks to the support of the European Commission. “Thanks to this strategic institutional support we are closer to having all the necessary support and resources for a fully commercial launch service dedicated to small payloads in Europe,” said Raúl Torres, PLD Space’s co-founder and CEO.

PLD instrument pictureThe company has previously received technical and programmatic support from the Directorate of European Space Programmes of the Spanish National Space Authority and the CDTI – an organisation that is part of the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness.

PLD Space micro-launcher development has also been backed previously by the European Space Agency (ESA) with a contract to develop European reusable technologies for launchers under the FLPP (Future Launchers Preparatory Programme) framework. The private sector has been boosting PLD Space micro-launcher development ever since the participation of the multinational GMV in December 2016, which invested several millions in PLD Space. GMV owns a stake in the company and is also developing ARION’s avionics subsystem, including guidance, navigation and control (GNC), telemetry, onboard flight hardware and software.

The company has also been supported by European space-related personalities. Italy’s first astronaut, Franco Malerba, who flew on the space shuttle mission STS-46a and is a current member of the European Parliament, has been working with the PLD Space team during SME Phase 1, providing his expertise and knowledge. He will continue to work with the team, and PLD Space foresees the involvement of other European astronauts as advisors to the ARION development programme.

Raúl Verdú, PLD Space’s co-founder and Chief Business Officer pointed out that the joint support of various public and private organisations is a critical factor in the company’s growth: “This support strengthens the position of PLD Space in the space industry and increases the confidence of private investors. We are now ready for the next step forward in our company: the closing of an A2 investment round of €8m very soon.”

The ARION micro-launcher development programme has been financed by several European and Spanish public and private investors since 2013. Public organisations include the European Space Agency and the European Commission, the Spanish Government through CDTI and ENISA (both from the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness) as well as more than 30 private Spanish investors. To date, the company has raised more than €9m for the ARION development programme.

PLD Space will be exhibiting on Stand F52 at Space Tech Expo Europe.