Nano/microsatellites (<100kg) can make the space industry more sustainable, environmentally friendly and efficient, but development evolves slowly, since research and testing of nanosatellites and their components is very limited and expensive. Microgravity is the perfect condition for testing early technology readiness level (TRL5-6) technologies, but access to the microgravity environment is not affordable for developers.
Currently there are no commercially available rockets suitable for small payloads. Flights are managed by national space agencies, and the limited opportunities are tied up with complex certification procedures, meaning a wait time of over 24 months. Suborbital payloads are forced into launching on missile-style solid propulsion-based sounding rockets with dramatic payload restrictions due to high acceleration (up to 21Gs, which can lead to technical problems with customer payloads), high prices (more than €35K per kg) and a high risk of explosion.
PLD’s ARION is a reusable system for launching small payloads into suborbital space, enabling the industry to get over the “technological death valley”.
ARION is cost-efficient, since it is assembled using commercial off-the shelf components and subsystems such as electronics, propulsion and structures can be reused up to 5 times. It uses a kerosene and industrial liquid oxygen engine, which is safe to transport and launch. Lower flight acceleration (6G) ensures higher safety, and the rocket can accommodate multiple payloads, which will be returned safely close to the launch location.
PLD will be able to perform up to 10 suborbital flights per year from its own launch pad in Spain. All launch work is performed at PLD facilities, meaning customers can determine mission parameters and conduct last-minute verifications. PLD ensures less than 12 months between signature and payload launch and a reduced overall price of suborbital flight.