A pioneering spirit pervades the large factory hall in the new Augsburg technology center, in which the start-up Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA) is currently in the process of building the first example of its RFA ONE launch vehicle. The RFA ONE is a microlauncher, a comparatively small rocket, with which one day up to 1.2 tons of payload in the form of small satellites will be transported into orbit. The rocket motors developed in-house are produced using an industrial 3D printer acquired second-hand. At other production stations, the round segments of the outer shell of the 25-meter-high launch vehicle are created, welded and machined - traditional metalworking is only a few meters away from the designers' screens. Many of the 85 employees at RFA, who come from 25 countries, are not young professionals, but have learned their trade at Arianespace or the New Zealand-American start-up Rocket Lab, which has already transported the first satellites into Earth orbit with its electron launch vehicle. Stefan Brieschenk, as co-member of the board, Chief Operations Officer of RFA, was previously at Rocket Lab, while the chief commercial officer Jörn Spurmann, also co-member of the board, gained his first satellite experience as a trained aerospace engineer at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) .
Rocket Factory Augsburg, founded in 2018 (partners: OHB System AG and MT Aerospace AG) is not the only rocket start-up in Germany. Isar Aerospace Technologies in Munich (partner: Airbus) and HyImpulse Technologies in Neuenstadt am Kocher (partner: IABG) have also reached the second round of the DLR microlauncher competition and each received 500,000 euros for the further development of their launch vehicles up to the main round of the competition in spring received this year. A total of 25 million euros in funding from the “Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support Program” of the European Space Agency (ESA) await the winners of the competition for the construction of prototypes of their carrier systems up to the first launch with payload in the coming years. Behind this is the insight that ESA should no longer develop everything itself, but should increasingly buy services from commercial start-ups, as Thomas Jarzombek, the federal government's coordinator for aerospace and start-up commissioner in the Federal Ministry for Economy and energy: “Our goal is to develop new players from the start-up environment in addition to the established launcher providers. We are thus relying on the commercialization of space travel, as NASA is already successfully doing. Companies like SpaceX have emerged from this. "
This does not mean a radical change, but it does mean a significant expansion of Germany's national space strategy. According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, their implementation continues to rest on four pillars:
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