After two years of development, an important milestone is reached: Production of the first carrier rocket starts. In 2018, Josef Fleischmann, Markus Brandl and Daniel Metzler – all three studied aerospace at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) – founded their start-up »Isar Aerospace«. Over the next few years, the launch vehicles should carry tens of thousands of small satellites into space. They are designed, for example, to provide a better Internet connection or to generate earth observation data. The small satellites will be launched in low earth orbits at an altitude of about 500 km – this will make it possible to transmit fast data to earth.
Two power trains
The launch vehicle of the TUM spin-off is particularly light and efficient: It is 27 meters long and has a diameter of two meters. It is powered by a cluster of engines, which is produced with 3D-printing in a cost-effective and fully automated process. The engines are powered by new, lightweight fuels. They burn very cleanly and efficiently in the combustion chambers under high pressure. The first cluster has nine engines with a combustion time of 150 s and a thrust of 675 kN, the second has one engine with a combustion time of 300 s and a thrust of 95 kN. »In this way, we achieve a very high degree of efficiency«, emphasizes Metzler.
The idea for the carrier rocket was born in 2017 in the workshops of the TUM. Together with his team, Metzler had developed a small engine for a research rocket. In response to a film about the project, there were numerous inquiries from the industry. Also Elon Musk would be stunned: According to Metzler, there is already customer interest worth several hundred million euros.
Prototypes of the engine components were built in the high-tech MakerSpace workshop in Garching. The trick is that the team uses only one type of engine in several clusters. By contrast, previous rockets rely on different engines. This trick enables the young founders to save both development and production costs.
The start-up capital required was initially invested by UnternehmerTUM Venture Capital Partners and private investors. The start-up was also supported by ESA's Business Incubation Center in Oberpfaffenhofen.
After two years of development, an important milestone was now reached on September 7th: production of the first rocket begins. In the presence of Prime Minister Dr. Markus Söder and TUM President Prof. Dr. Thomas F. Hofmann, the young entrepreneurs opened their production halls on an area of 4,500 square meters in Ottobrunn near Munich. Initially, production is to be successful with 100 employees – with more to follow.
The next milestone is also already in sight: 2021 will be the year the first carrier rocket, loaded with small satellites, launched into orbit. If everything runs according to plan, series production can begin immediately afterwards – Isar Aeropace plans to build 20 rockets per year.