Spain wants its own ecosystem of companies capable of holding the title of satellite launcher. Or, at the very least, a viable launchpad capable of channeling the financial efforts of aerospace LOSS. He also wants this project to materialize in 2025. Or similar dates.
€4,533 million is earmarked for investment in the local aerospace sector, with the area of commercial use of space attracting the most attention. Specifically, for the creation of a Spanish and European satellite system. “We have to move from craftsmanship to the industrial production of satellite constellations,” stresses Miguel Belló, the curator of PERTE Aeronautics within the framework of the annual meeting of Ametic. Ultimately, the goal is to go from launching satellites every few years to living up to Starlink’s ambitions by Elon Musk or Kuiper by Bezos.
While waiting for Spain to move towards the creation of this future satellite factory, which will focus in the first place on the study of the earth’s surface to prevent fires, there is another element of the aerospace ecosystem that the commissioner wants to influence. “We want to have our own satellite launcher before 2025,” says Belló. But is it a risky date? Does Spain have a launch point so far?
Historical points for a satellite launcher
If we analyze the lists of points on the planet where the launches take place, we realize that they are more numerous than those usually found in the world of fiction. Beyond Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Cender in Florida, there are more than 70 launch sites around the planet. And yes, also in Spain. Very small and with a very specific use. It is precisely this data concerning national satellite launch platforms that PERTE wishes to improve.
Located in El Arenosillo, Huelva, the platform that locates a satellite launcher has been operational since 1966. Managed by the National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA), this small facility was built at the request of NASA to launch weather rockets. study the variation of wind and temperature. It was also used, and continues to be used, to launch rockets from the Spanish Sounding Rocket Institution. It exists with another small launch point located on the island of El Hierro in the Canary Islands, also managed by INTA, also for the institution’s small rockets and satellites with public billing.
Operating for public purposes ever since, it was PLD Space, a private rocket launch company, that put Arenosillo back on the map. With the aim of putting the Miura 1, a rocket entirely manufactured in Spain, into orbit, this point was chosen for the launch. Our own Cape Canaveral on the Atlantic coast and our own company that would make it possible to have a satellite launcher.
But the commissioner wants more, as well as an ecosystem of companies and platforms that are taking the rocket launch industry into orbit around the planet to a new point.
Also in the Basque Country
It will be in the Basque province of Vitoria where there will be a new point to position the future satellite launcher. In this case certainly fueled by European funds, the project has been blocked for a few months until the Aerospace PERTE funds channel their investments.
On the table, a project in which AVS and Virgin are involved to make the runway of Vitoria airport a launching point for satellites with planes in flight. Specifically, at Foronda airport, which would become the first in the European space to enter the launch models under this modality. With 42.5 million euros of investment, it would be a massive project and a viable line to reach the goal of the rocket launch pad before 2025.
Even if, at this point, another essential point must be added: Spain does not have regulations for the launch of satellites from the territory. Or, at least, who regulates this activity in the event of intervention by private entities. With no plans to undertake regulation at this level, the idea of a fully functioning rocket launch ecosystem in Spain is receding, with or without LOSS.