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D-Orbit books Isar Aerospace launch for orbital transfer vehicle


An artistic rendering of Isar Aerospace’s two-stage Spectrum launch vehicle. Credit: Isar Aerospace

TAMPA, Fla. — Germany’s Isar Aerospace announced plans June 22 to launch an orbital transfer vehicle no earlier than 2023 for Italian space logistics company D-Orbit.

Isar Aerospace said D-Orbit is the primary customer for the mission to sun-synchronous orbit (SSO), which will use the German company’s Spectrum launch vehicle that it expects to debut this year or next.

The announcement said the launch term for their mission starts in 2023 and will use Isar Aerospace’s launchpad in Andøya, Norway, but did not reveal further details.

Spectrum is designed to launch 700 kilograms to SSO, and D-Orbit’s ION Satellite Carrier orbital transfer vehicle can host several cubesats and microsatellites per mission. 

Similar to other orbital transfer vehicles developed by companies including Spaceflight and Momentus, ION promises satellite operators operational efficiencies by dropping their payloads off at custom orbits post-launch.

Isar Aerospace referred questions about the satellites planning to use the ION to fine-tune their orbits to D-Orbit, which was unable to comment before this article was published. 

Isar Aerospace chief commercial officer Stella Guillen said their agreement only covers one launch, ”but we are looking forward to strengthen our cooperation.”

Guillen said Spectrum’s first and second flight will carry European payloads that are being selected as part of a competition run by German space agency DLR.

The competition is part of an 11 million euro ($11.6 million) award Isar Aerospace received from DLR and the European Space Agency in April 2021

In return, Isar Aerospace is giving the German government up to 150 kilograms of payload space on each of its first two Spectrum flights.

DLR started inviting applications June 20 for free flights on Isar Aerospace’s second mission, which is slated to fly in 2023.

While the first mission targeted European institutions, Isar Aerospace said startups and small and medium-sized businesses can apply for the second flight. The application deadline is October 15.

“D-Orbit will be on-board of one of the following flights,” Guillen said.

D-Orbit announced plans Jan. 27 to go public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company in a deal valuing it at $1.28 billion.

The company expects to raise $185 million after closing the deal in the third quarter of this year.

It plans to use proceeds to accelerate the development of products and services, which also include plans for active debris removal and space-based cloud computing.

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