Small rockets – big market potential

A number of new players have entered the ‘space stage’ with the boom in the microlauncher sector. Beginning in the USA and China, this development has also reached Europe. More than ten companies on the continent show great potential for leaving a sustainable footprint in this sector. Three of these, HyImpulse, Isar Aerospace and Rocket Factory Augsburg, are based in Germany. With the German Space Agency at DLR’s Microlauncher Competition, German start-ups initially received funding totalling 25 million euros through ESA’s Boost! programme. In return, the young companies must develop and offer launch services commercially. To this end, the two winners of the first and second main rounds – Isar Aerospace and Rocket Factory Augsburg – will each launch several small satellites totalling approximately 150 kilograms per flight into space with the first two flights of their new microlaunchers. These payloads were selected via the payload competition, which was closely linked to the microlauncher competition as part of the ‘Small Satellites Initiative’. With the leading subscription to Boost! Element 3 at the 2022 ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level, Germany, as programme leader, continues its strong commitment to the sector. Under the ‘Flight Ticket Initiative’, additional launch services will be competitively procured from start-ups in partnership with the European Commission.

With the microlauncher competition, the German Space Agency at DLR has initiated commercial activities in the European launch vehicle market, which has so far been heavily dominated by large companies and government development programmes. In this way, SMEs with their innovative ideas and concepts have been able to open up a path into the market for commercial and low-cost launch services. The fact that ESA Member States decided at the recent ESA Council at Ministerial Level to open up the launch service of ESA payloads to privately financed European launchers is a further step. This path will have a lasting impact on European spaceflight and also open up Europe’s largest payload market to German microlauncher companies.


German Aerospace Center (DLR)
German Space Agency at DLR
Holger Burkhardt · E-Mail Holger.Burkhardt@dlr.de
Markus Wagener · E-Mail Markus.Wagener@dlr.de