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From Ottobrunn into Orbit: Rockets made in Munich

Germany enters the international space race with Isar Aerospace. Meet the team at the Bits & Pretzels Networking Week

Munich based rocket startup Isar Aerospace officially opened its production site in Ottobrunn, close to the city center. The “Spectrum”, their two-stage launch rocket specifically designed for satellite constellation deployment in lower orbit, will be built on the 4500 square meter large area. So far the halls at the construction site look a little empty, but that’s not how’s going to stay moving forward according to Isar’s co-founder and CEO Daniel Metzler. 

It’s our goal to be a real competitor to Elon Musk’s SpaceX”, says the engineer who started the company while he was still a student at the Technical University in Munich in an interview with Bits & Pretzels Media. “With our technology we want to enable a very precise orbit induction of satellites.” 

Bavaria’s prime minister, Markus Söder, who is a huge space fan himself, is backing Isar Aerospace: “From Ottobrunn into the orbit: We’re glad to see that with Isar Aerospace Bavaria develops own competences in the field and thereby reduces its dependence on the US and China.

While Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos dare to dream publicly about taking tourists to Mars, that’s not really the most promising business model in the space industry. What Isar Aerospace and more than 100 other space startups worldwide are after is a much bigger market. It’s about enabling the next level for crucial technologies for everyday and everyone: satellite based internet, real-time navigation for self-driving cars, industry 4.0, the digitalisation of plants in remote areas, smart city concepts or 5G. According to investment bank Morgan Stanley, satellite based internet alone is going to be a 410 billion dollar market in 2040. 

To turn satellite based internet into a sustainable business, space pioneers such as SpaceX have already shown how to reduce cost of launch per rocket drastically, e.g. by re-using its Falcon rockets. The next generation of rocket companies such as Isar Aerospace is going a step further. Small rocket launchers such as the ones made by Isar Aerospace are supposed to reduce the launch costs of satellites drastically.  

And there is also a non-commercial side of the space industry. Public institutions as well as the military need access to satellites. But so far European economies & public institutions more or less rely on US satellites. Startups like Isar Aerospace could therefore be an important step towards more sovereignty for the European players, the industry hopes.

New approaches for the financing 

Isar Aerospace was founded in 2018 and has received a total funding amount of 17 million euros in total to date - Earlybird Venture Capital, Vito Ventures and Airbus Ventures have invested as well as former SpaceX VP Bulent Altan and others. The startup will need a lot more funding, though, until the first rockets can be released into space and wants to raise 100 million, as its co-founder explains. 

In the US, NASA backed SpaceX by giving it launch contracts for one billion dollars in the beginning. That could also be a model for Germany, as Ann-Katrin Achleitner, a Professor for Entrepreneurship and Financial Studies at the Technical University in Munich, emphasizes: “We need more financing from future customers when it comes to space startups.”

The German state has recognized the relevance for space for Germany and Europe. Thomas Jarzombek, Commissioner for the Digital Industry and Startups as well as Federal Government Coordinator of German Aerospace Policy, says: “We need contracts with the launch companies.” Jarzombek also committed that the German government becomes an anchor customer of Isar Aerospace moving forward. 

You want to learn more about groundbreaking technologies in the field? Meet Isar Aerospace and other promising startups in the sector, like Morpheus, Orora Tech and Planet at this year’s Bits & Pretzels Networking Week! Tickets are limited, so hurry up!