Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA) will build a dedicated launch pad at the Guiana Space Center (GSC) in French Guiana, with launches commencing in 2025, the company said Wednesday.
RFA signed a binding agreement with France’s national space agency CNES for use of the launch site at GSC, located in Kourou, French Guiana. The launch complex had historically been home to a small French launcher known as Diamant, which was retired in the 1970s. Currently, the only launch vehicles that fly from GSC are ArianeGroup’s Ariane 5 and the Italian aerospace company Avio’s Vega.
“By launching from Kourou, the European Spaceport, we can serve ESA and its member states as institutional customers for any mission profile they desire,” RFA’s chief commercial officer Jörn Spurmann said in a statement.
RFA is one of a handful of European launch startups racing to complete their first mission before the end of this year. The Germany-based company already has an agreement in place with the Scotland’s SaxaVord Spaceport for exclusive access to a launch pad there. RFA said in January that its first launch will take place from that location.
SaxaVord’s very high latitude means that the RFA rocket will be able to reach polar and sun-synchronous orbits (SSO). The second launch site in French Guiana expands access to lower inclinations, including geosynchronous orbit, medium Earth orbit and even lunar and interplanetary missions.
RFA is developing a three-stage launcher called RFA One with a payload capacity of 1,300 kilograms to SSO. The rocket will stand at 30 meters and 2 meters in diameter, slightly bigger than Rocket Lab’s Electron but less than twice as tall as a SpaceX Falcon 9. In May, RFA successfully completed a 280-second hot fire test of its upper stage, qualifying the upper stage and its RFA-made Helix engine for flight.
The company has spent a little over €40 million ($43.8 million) so far in its quest to become Europe’s first small launch provider.