Artist’s impression of the French Zéphyr mini-rocket on its launch pad in Scotland. Latitude

The Latitude start-up, which is developing this small launcher, has successfully completed the first tests of its reusable engine. It plans to raise new funds in 2023 to launch the construction of the first rocket, whose first flight is scheduled for the end of 2024.

The commissioning of Zéphyr, the first French micro-rocket dedicated to the launch of small satellites, is scheduled for the end of 2024. A tight schedule that the start-up Latitude intends to keep, encouraged by the success of the first engine firing tests- reusable and re-ignitable Navier rocket. Carried out at the end of December, these tests validated the technology, robustness and re-ignition capacity within a few hours of the rocket engine, manufactured 100% in 3D printing by the Luxembourg company Saturn technologies.

A successful step despite the setbacks. ” We were to carry out its tests in April 2022, in partnership with Ariane Group on its new Bamocry test bench in Vernon, financed as part of France Relance. But the facilities were not ready. After two and a half months of discussions, we turned to Saxa Vord, who became our trusted partner, and we developed a mobile test bench in-house, which makes us independent », Explains Stanislas Maximim, CEO and co-founder of the young shoot born in 2019, and based in Reims.

Saxa Vord will also host the first Zephyr launches at NewSpace’s new dedicated space base on Unst, an island in the Shetland archipelago in northern Scotland. ” We will also launch from the former Diamant de Kourou launch pad in French Guiana, after being selected by the European Space Agency, to carry out our launch campaigns there. “, specifies the CEO. Discussions are also underway with two other space bases in Scotland and Norway.

Bespoke launch services

Latitude is now launching the next steps in the development of Zéphyr: development of the second version of the Navier, which will give birth to the flight engine, powered by a liquid oxygen-kerosene mixture. At the same time, after the design review, the start-up is preparing the mass production of Zéphyr parts. 17 meters high, the small two-stage rocket has around forty subcontractors on board, 80% of them French. Among them big names in the industry including Siemens, which provides the software suite, the American Swagelock, world leader in fluid systems on the ground, Eiffage Clemessy, specialist in engineering.

This year, the young company is also preparing a third round of fundraising, in particular from its current investors, including Expansion, the fund dedicated to space created by Charles Beigbeder and François Chopard, the boss of Starburst, as well as the venture capital fund of Credit Mutuel and BpiFrance. ” This new call for investors must finance the end of the development of the engine, the manufacture of the first Zéphyr as well as the tests before the first flight. sums up Stanislas Maximin.

Drop in prices per kilo in orbit

Latitude’s objective is to provide a tailor-made, flexible and rapid launch service – six months between reservation and launch – in conventional or specific orbits at some 700 km from the Earth, dedicated to small satellites of less than 100 kg. This with a rocket, with a carrying capacity evolving from 70 to 150 kilos, and adaptable to customer needs. The company promises lower prices than the competition, ie 35,000 dollars per kilo, against 50,000 dollars for the American-Zealander company Rocket Lab for example. Then, with the ramp-up, $10,000 per kilo. ” Zéphyr is not a rocket but a platform, whose performance will evolve up to 1 ton in low orbit, and whose costs will drop, once the rate of 50 flights per year is reached by the end of this decade », specifies Stanislas Maximin.

On the commercial front, the company is targeting the nanosatellite market which offers, thanks to lower prices, access to space for companies, SMEs, universities, the agricultural world, etc. Latitude has already received numerous expressions of interest and will soon announce the signature of the first letters of intent.

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