Everything was ready a week ago and the time has finally come. The Miura 1, the first reusable Spanish rocket, will take off this Wednesday morning from the Médano del Loro military shooting range, in Huelva, as confirmed today by PLD Space, the company that built it. You will have to get up early to continue the maneuver. The live connection will begin at 5:30 a.m. and the window will last until 10:00 a.m.
The green light has come from the weather report. The takeoff of any rocket requires very precise conditions to meet all safety requirements. The surface wind speed cannot exceed 20km/h, the atmosphere must also be calm at altitude and there must be no approaching storm. Raúl Torres, one of the founders of PLD Space, already announced it two days ago on his social networks: «The weather forecast, in the absence of the atmospheric survey at 10km and 30km for the winds at altitude (which are still quite high, although in a good direction ) seems to be getting better in the next few days. #Come onMIURA, warm up as you go out. “The METEO model and the readings begin to converge.”
Named in honor of the renowned breed of Spanish bull, the rocket measures 12.5 meters – far from the 120 of Elon Musk’s Starship, the largest and most powerful in history – and is designed to lift payloads of 250 kilos to more than 150 kilometers high. In this first flight, which will last about twelve minutes, it will carry 100 kilos of material from the German Center for Applied Space Technology and Microgravity to a maximum height of 153 kilometers. If successful, it would place Spain among the ten countries with the capacity to send small satellites into space.
The most critical moments of this initial mission will be the first 30 seconds, which is “when the rocket has to adopt an orientation of 80 degrees to begin parabolic flight.” Upon its return, the launcher will reach a speed of 2,700 kilometers per hour and will be slowed with a parachute that will cushion its impact on the ocean. The vehicle will then be recovered by boat. «To date, of the sixty rockets that have been developed in the world, only two companies have made them reusable: Space X – Elon Musk’s company – and Blue Origin – from Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon -. Our rocket was conceived like this from the beginning. From Miura 1, 60% of its components can be recovered,” highlights Ezequiel Sánchez, executive president of PLD Space, a company from Elche founded in 2011 by the aforementioned Raúl Torres and Raúl Verdú, when both were 23 years old.
To reach this point, the rocket has had to pass several tests. The most recent took place on Wednesday, May 17, when it successfully passed a five-second ‘hot test’ (static ignition). Previously, in September, several functional validation tests and three static ignitions of 5, 20 and 122 seconds were carried out. The latter, known as a flight mission test, simulates all the conditions of a real launch, only without actually flying.
Building the Miura 5
For now, the rocket will be powered by jet-A1 fuel, used by most commercial and military airlines around the world. Later it will use Kerolox, based on refined kerosene and liquid oxygen (LOX), the same one used in the rocket engines of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 family. Starting in 2025, the company intends to commit to the use of renewable fuels.
In parallel to Miura 1, PLD Space engineers have been working these months on another project, that of an orbital vehicle called Miura 5. The idea is that it will apply what they learned with its predecessor and can take off in 2024 from Kourou, in French Guiana. This second rocket will be 34.4 meters long and will allow around 540 kilograms to be placed in low Earth orbit. PLD Space has already achieved more than 60 million euros of investment to promote its project in the space sector and they hope to achieve a turnover of up to 150 million euros annually.