Towards a New Launch Complex for Micro-launchers

Illustration of a micro-launcher pad. (Credits: CNES)

PARIS (CNES PR) — The announced development of micro-launchers is speeding up thinking on new, more flexible and agile launch pad concepts. In Guyana, CNES is working on adapting the historic Diamant site, which has already been redeveloped for Callisto and Themis.

It is a still small segment, whose economic model and organization remain to be refined, but which should develop strongly in the years to come. Micro-launchers projects, these small rockets, around twenty meters, are currently on the increase. They meet the needs of New Space players to put large quantities of light satellites, on the order of 300 kg, or even 50 kg nanosatellites, into orbit.

In order to reduce their costs and make their business profitable, these new entrants are counting on ease of operation and high launch rates, and in this perspective are looking for flexible launch sites, adapted to this new concept. Europe spaceport, the Guyanese Space Center would have many advantages in accommodating this new family of launchers.

 Micro-launchers represent a big development opportunity for CSG. We have an operational and recognized space base, whose geographical position allows us to have a significant performance gain.

— Massimo Ferlin, “base of the future” project manager at the Future and launchers innovation sub-directorate at the DLA

A Shared Firing Point

Solicited by several companies, CNES is currently working on the implementation of micro-launchers on the historic launch pad of the Diamant rocket. This is already being renovated to accommodate the Callisto experimental vehicle and the Themis reusable floor demonstrator in the years 2022-2023. Unlike what is practiced with heavy launchers, where each system has a dedicated launch pad, the site must be multiuse.

The main idea is pooling, with a single launch package to accommodate all micro-launchers. The preparation and integration of the launchers will be carried out in a rear area approximately 1 km away, where each company will be able to have mobile equipment.

— Nathalie Costedoat, “Innovation and preparation of the future of the Base” project manager at the CSG.

Preparing the launch base requires setting up a logistics and technical chain adapted to the needs of launch operators, a bit like an airport, but limiting heavy infrastructure as much as possible. By 2025, it will be able to allow a high rate, while guaranteeing the safety and reliability of operations. The CSG-NG project is the first step in preparing the future of the space base.

Did You Know ?

Micro-launchers target all of the new markets associated with Earth observation. They will carry scientific microsatellites as well as those intended for applications in sectors such as maritime navigation or agriculture. They will also be able to meet emerging needs in telecommunications, particularly in the field of connected objects.