Luxury car manufacturer Porsche has entered the space race, investing in a German start-up looking to take on the likes of Blue Origin, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic.
The Ottobrunn-based rocket firm — Isar Aerospace — develops and manages launch vehicles designed to transport satellites into orbit around the Earth.
Isar Aerospace is planning its first launch for late next year and claims that its 'Spectrum' rocket vehicle will provide cheaper and more flexible satellite launches.
Key to this promise is its plan to increase the extent of the automation in its rocket production processes, which will also incorporate 3D printing.
Porsche has given Isar $75 million (£54 million) in funding, which the automobile firm said represents a 'low single-digit percentage stake' in the start-up.
Luxury car manufacturer Porsche has entered the space race, investing in a German start-up looking to take on the likes of Blue Origin , SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. Isar Aerospace is planning their first launch for next year and claims that its 'Spectrum' rocket vehicle (pictured) will provide cheaper and more flexible satellite launches
Porsche (whose logo is pictured) has given Isar $75 million (£54 million) in funding, which the automobile firm said represents a 'low single-digit percentage stake' in the start-up
Isar Aerospace is planning their first launch for late next year.
They claims that their 'Spectrum' rocket vehicle will provide cheaper and more flexible satellite launches.
Key to this promise, they say, is their plans to increase the extent of the automation in their rocket production processes.
The Spectrum design — which includes various 3D-printed components — will be able to carry payloads of up to 2,204 lbs (1,000 kg) into a low-Earth orbit with a fraction of the pollution thanks to its light hydrocarbon and liquid oxygen fuel.
'As an investor with a focus on mobility and industrial technology, we are convinced that cost-efficient and flexible access to space will be an enabler of innovation in many industry sectors,' said Porsche management board member Lutz Meschke.
'With Isar Aerospace, we are investing in a company that is well-positioned to establish itself as a leading European manufacturer of launch vehicles.'
Mr Meschke added that he considered the rapid development of the rocket firm to be 'impressive'.
'The funding will allow Isar Aerospace to further invest in its launch, testing, and manufacturing infrastructure for its largely automated rocket production and commercial operations,' an Isar Aerospace spokesperson said in a statement.
'Space will become a key technological platform for many industries worldwide — from the automotive to the telecoms sector.'
This, they added, will bring 'advances and new capabilities [to the Internet of Things], data encryption and storage, as well as smart farming applications and surveillance for tackling climate change.'
Isar Aerospace is an Ottobrunn-based rocket firm that develops and manages launch vehicles designed to transport satellites into orbit around the Earth. Pictured, the Isar Aerospace team, with part of their high performance rocket engine (left to right: Lin Kayser, Markus Brandl, Daniel Metzler, Josef Fleischmann and Bulent Altan)
ISAR AEROSPACE'S OTHER INVESTORS
Unlike some of its more high-profile competition — like Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk's SpaceX — Isar Aerospace does not have the benefit of a billionaire's backing.
However, the rocket firm has secured a grand total of $180 million (£129 million) in funding since 2018 from various investors, alongside Porsche.
These include Airbus Ventures, Earlybird, HV Capital, Lakestar, Lombard Odier and former SpaceX executive Bülent Altan.
According to the firm, the space launch services market is expected to increase to over €30 billion (£25.6 billion) within the next six years, with a third of this expected to stem from the launching of small and medium -sized satellites into orbit.
Much of this growth is expected to be driven by a boom in both satellite-driven software applications across various industries as well as earth observation missions.
According to Porsche, however, 'existing launch capacities are not sufficient, or too expensive or inflexible.'
It added: 'Private companies like Isar Aerospace aim to satisfy this demand in a more cost-effective and flexible way compared to established space companies.'
While yet to launch its first rocket, Isar Aerospace already claims Airbus Group as a paying customer — and, back in may, secured a contract from the German Aerospace Center to launch two satellites into orbit in the future.
In fact, after its maiden launch next year, the firm has plans to deploy 3–4 rockets in 2023 and aims to get up to a rate of ten launches per year after that.
Unlike Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, however, Isar Aerospace has said that it plans to focus on cost-efficient satellite launches, and is not planning manned spaceflights or a move into the burgeoning space tourism sector.
'As an investor with a focus on mobility and industrial technology, we are convinced that cost-efficient and flexible access to space will be an enabler of innovation in many industry sectors,' said Porsche management board member Lutz Meschke. 'With Isar Aerospace, we are investing in a company that is well-positioned to establish itself as a leading European manufacturer of launch vehicles.' Pictured: a Porsche car beneath a starry sky
While yet to launch their first rocket, Isar Aerospace already claims Airbus Group as a paying customer — and, back in may, secured a contract from the German Aerospace Center to launch two satellites into orbit in the future. Pictured: Isar Aerospace's early high-performance 'Finch' rocket engine, which uses a LOX/Hydrocarbon alternative fuel
While investment in Isar Aerospace may represent only a small deal for Porsche, it represents something of a departure from their usual concerns.
The luxury vehicle manufacture's investment portfolio has primarily been composed of other automotive firms and related industries.
Some of their recent investments have resulted in notable successes — with both LiDAR for autonomous vehicle sensing developer AEVA and American 3D printer manufacturer Markforged going public.
THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE: HOW BRANSON, MUSK AND BEZOS ARE VYING FOR GALACTIC SUPREMACY
Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin's space capsule
Dubbed the 'NewSpace' set, Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk all say they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US beat the Soviet Union in the space race, and there is no doubt how much it would mean to each of them to win the 'new space race'.
Amazon founder Bezos had looked set to be the first of the three to fly to space, having announced plans to launch aboard his space company Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft on July 20.
The billionaire mogul will travel with his younger brother Mark, a charity auction winner who's shelling out $28 million and pioneering female astronaut Wally Funk, 82.
However, Branson has now announced he's planning to make a suborbital flight nine days before Bezos and his brother. He revealed on Twitter that he plans to be Astronaut 001 on Virgin Galactic's July 11 test flight.
Although SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk has said he wants to go into space, and even 'die on Mars', he has not said when he might blast into orbit.
SpaceX appears to be leading the way in the broader billionaire space race with numerous launches carrying NASA equipment to the ISS and partnerships to send tourists to space by 2021.
On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away, with Musk's own red Tesla roadster attached.
Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule
NASA has already selected two astronauts who will be on-board the first manned Dragon mission.
SpaceX has also started sending batches of 60 satellites into space to help form its Starlink network.
Musk hopes this will provide an interconnected web of satellites around Earth which will beam down free internet to people worldwide.
Branson and Virgin Galactic are taking a different approach to conquering space. It has repeatedly, and successfully, conducted test flights of the Virgin Galactic's Unity space plane.
The first took place in December 2018 and the latest on May 22, with the flight accelerating to more than 2,000 miles per hour (Mach 2.7).
More than 600 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin's space trips.
Branson has previously said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX.
Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft
SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows - one to the side and one overhead.
The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.
It climbs to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier craft, White Knight II, once it has passed the 50-mile mark.
Passengers become 'astronauts' when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth's atmosphere.
The spaceship will then make a suborbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 1.5 hours.
Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.
The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable 'New Shepard' booster rocket.
Bezos is one of the richest men in the world and Blue Origin has successfully flown the New Shepard rocket 15 times.
At its peak, the capsule reached 65 miles (104 kilometres), just above the official threshold for space and landed vertically seven minutes after liftoff.