Spanish company PLD Space launched its recoverable Miura-1 rocket early on Saturday from a site in southwest Spain, carrying out Europe’s first fully private rocket launch in a glimmer of hope for the region’s stalled space ambitions.
The startup’s test night-time launch from Huelva came after two previous attempts were scrubbed. The Miura-1 rocket, named after a breed of fighting bull, is as tall as a three-storey building and has a 100-kg (220-pound) cargo capacity.
The launch carried a payload to gather data, but this was not designed to be released during the suborbital test flight.
Mission control video showed engineers cheering and congratulating one another as the rocket rose into the night sky.
“My voice is shot after so much shouting,” said a triumphant Raul Torres, CEO of PLD Space, shortly after the launch.
He said all rocket systems worked “perfectly”, adding that the company would now focus on tripling its workforce. “This is just the beginning.”
Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez posted on social media: “The launch of the Miura 1, the first rocket with 100% Spanish technology, has been a success. A milestone that positions Spain’s research and development at the forefront of space transportation.”
The flight lasted 306 seconds. However, its maximum height of 46 kilometres was barely half the altitude its mission planners had hoped for, according to space.com.
The partly reusable launcher landed in the Atlantic Ocean and the company was due to recover it later on Saturday, it said in a statement.
A first attempt to launch the Miura-1 rocket in May was abandoned because of high-altitude winds. A second attempt in June failed when umbilical cables did not all detach on time, halting the lift-off as smoke and flames spewed from the rocket.
Source : Reuters