22nd May 2024
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Spain’s first rocket launch delayed again, this time over the risk of forest fires

The inaugural flight of Spain’s MIURA 1 rocket, already twice suspended in recent weeks, has now been delayed until September over fears that its launch could start a wildfire, the group behind it said in a statement on Tuesday.

Built by private Spanish start-up PLD Space, the rocket had initially been scheduled for take-off from El Arenosillo, a coastal military base in the southwestern province of Huelva, on 31 May, but was called off due to high winds. It was then aborted for a second time on 17 June due to a last-minute technical problem.

After talks with the National Institute for Aerospace Technology (INTA), ‘PLDSpace has postponed the launch of MIURA 1 until September onwards due to mandatory compliance with current regulations on prevention of forest fires, high temperatures recorded in Huelva and necessary coordination with national security forces,’ it said in a statement, ‘and to ensure the safety of the area where the launch is carried out.’

The announcement came as Spain was in the grip of its first summer heatwave, with temperatures hitting a peak of 44 C in the Huelva province. The soaring temperatures, expected to last until Thursday, raise the risk of forest fires, which has also been heightened by an on-going drought.

PLD Space’s MIURA 1, named after a breed of fighting bull, is a small sub-orbital launch vehicle that stands a mere 12 metres tall and is capable of placing objects in space.

When it launches, the rocket is slated to fly just 100 km from the Earth’s surface, carrying sensors to study microgravity conditions on a flight that will last 12 minutes.

While that distance would put it in outer space, the rocket is not powerful enough to reach orbit.

The aim is ultimately to use the data for integration into the MIURA 5, a larger orbital micro-launcher with parts that can be recovered and reused, which PLD hopes will place small satellites of up to 450 kg into orbit from 2025.

Following an agreement signed last week, the MIURA 5 will ultimately be launched from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, according to PLD Space, which is aiming to be the first private European firm to put a reusable satellite launcher into space.

Companies are rushing to develop launchers to address a growing satellite market, with some 18,500 small systems due to be launched in the coming decade, Euroconsult analysts say.

After postponing the launch of MIURA 1 on 31 May due to high winds in Huelva, PLD Space had to abort the launch of it again on 17 June because ‘one of the umbilical cables connecting the rocket to the avionics bay was released with 0.25 seconds delay, which meant that the next umbilical cable was not released in time’, it said in a statement. This prompted ‘an automatic abort sequence that shut down the engines and stopped the launch’, it said, but emphasised that ‘both the rocket and the launch ramp are in perfect condition’.

Raúl Torres, CEO and co-founder of PLD Space, said: ‘Launching a rocket designed from scratch is a major challenge and we successfully completed 99.9% of all pre-launch procedures up to the countdown. The entire pre-launch phase was a resounding success, and we are very close to successfully launching Europe’s first reusable rocket, which has recovery and reusability requirements that only three companies have achieved in space history.’

ALSO READ: Spain’s maiden rocket launch postponed by high winds.

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