On Days #2 and #4 of IAC in Paris, German launch startup Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA) signed a pair of launch contracts with Spaceflight Inc. and Indian space situational awareness (SSA) startup Digantara.
- Spaceflight signed a launch contract that will see RFA take the Seattle company’s Sherpa space tug to orbit. To date, Spaceflight has flown five missions with the tug: Sherpa-FX1, Sherpa-FX2, Sherpa-AC, Sherpa-LTC, and Sherpa-LTE.
- Digantara inked a deal with RFA to deepen ties between the two companies. This included an agreement to launch two Digantara SSA birds on RFA ONE.
RFA ONE? It’s a 30-meter, three-stage launch vehicle under development, expected to deliver 1,350 kg payloads to LEO and debut in 2023.
A Sherpa hitches a ride
Spaceflight CEO Curt Blake cited price, flight cadence, and launch facility access as the primary reasons behind choosing RFA ONE for its growing Sherpa product lineup. “We’re looking forward to extending our launch vehicle portfolio for Sherpa OTVs and rideshare services to now include RFA ONE and wish them well on their upcoming maiden flight,” said Blake.
RFA and Spaceflight are targeting mid-2024 for their first launch, and didn’t say how many missions they intend to fly together.
👀 While we’re here 👀
Tuesday’s Spaceflight contract announcement included a reference to RFA launching from the UK. This is the first time the company has said it may launch from one of several launch facilities under development in the UK. It’s unclear which UK spaceport RFA has its eye on.
Safer and more precise
Digantara was founded in 2018 and is working towards launching a 40-satellite LEO SSA constellation. The RFA agreement will see a pair of Digantara SSA satellites launched aboard RFA ONE flights. The deal also lays the groundwork for integrating Digantara’s S-MAP into the RFA tech ecosystem, enabling safer launch, early operations, and last-mile space services.
“We are proud that another international customer has chosen our highly competitive launch service,” said RFA CCO Jörn Spurmann. “Digantara will significantly improve the precision of SSA and will enable safer spaceflight operations for everyone.”
The twin Digantara birds that will ride aboard RFA ONE are expected to be launched no earlier than 2024.
What’s next for RFA? The German launcher hot-fired its Helix engine for a 74-second, long-duration test this July. Later this year, RFA plans to conduct an integrated stage test of Helix.