HyPrSpace will test its hybrid mini-launcher in 2023 in Bordeaux

“We want a SpaceX in 2026!” The challenge launched by Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire to the French space community in December 2021 is very directly resonating in the ears of Alexandre Mangeot, Sylvain Bataillard and Vincent Rocher, co-founders of Bordeaux startup HyPrSpace, for Hybrid Propulsion for Space.

“When we look at the ambition that Emmanuel Macron has set for having a French recyclable micro-launcher in 2026, we say to ourselves that we are ticking many fields with our proposals and our schedule since we are planning the first tests, at scale 1, of our OB-1 micro-launcher for early 2023 before a commercial launch in late 2024 “, points out Alexandre Mangeot, CEO.

As part of the France 2030 plan, the state thus earmarked 200 million euros to develop reusable mini-launchers.

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It is in this context of renewed ambitions that the multi-entrepreneur Charles Beigbeder, through his fund Geodesic, has just invested 1.1 million euros together with French Tech Seed (Bpifrance) and private investors. Knowing that Geodesic is aiming to merge with the Starburst Aerospace Fund to form Expansion Ventures and raise 300 million euros within two years to support New Space startups. And if Charles Beigbeder chose Bordelais from HyPrSpace among his first goals, it’s obviously not a coincidence: “The technological breakthrough developed by HyPrSpace and its launch capability structures the evolution of the space industry”, points out the one who also manages the Audacia and Quantonation funds. But what breach are we talking about to justify such an interest in this start-up of fifteen employees, which is developing in a sector where the need for capital is measured in hundreds of millions of euros?

“We started from a blank sheet”

In fact, hybrid propulsion – which combines solid oxidant and liquid fuel – used by HyPrSpace is not new, dating back to the 1960s. , used on Virgin Galactics SpaceShipTwo. “Hybrid propulsion works well on a small scale, but on a large scale this engine does not offer sufficient performance to propel a launch vehicle. It is this technological lock that we have lifted and patented in France and soon internationally”, simplifies Alexandre Mageot, holder of a doctorate in hybrid propulsion at Cnes (National Center for Space Studies). Its micro-launcher, mischievously dubbed OB-1, is capable of carrying a payload of 250 kg in orbit.

“We dared to start from scratch, enabling us to design a hybrid engine architecture that was fundamentally different from what is done in conventional launchers, and therefore to integrate subsystems where no one would have thought of placing them.” continues the engineer. “The result is a propulsion stage consisting of only twenty parts to be assembled, compared to tens of thousands for a conventional launch vehicle! This simplifies all stages of the production chain – supply, assembly, quality control, inspection, logistics – with significant savings in the end. “

HyPr Space

The reusable OB-1 rocket developed by HyPrSpace (credits: HyPrSpace).

The presence of the DGA-EM (Directorate-General for Weapons, Missile Testing) in Saint-Médard-en-Jalles (Gironde) and Biscarosse (Landes) also makes this young shot, created in mid-2019 in Bordeaux, possible , to use the land and floating stone infrastructures and therefore drastically reduce development costs.

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“The great advantage of our propulsion technology is that it is cheap to develop, cheap to produce and cheap to operate, while being mechanically and chemically more robust. This allows for a parachute descent and a landing at a much lower cost than those that practiced by SpaceX. “emphasizes Alexandre Mangeot.

In addition to these economic benefits, there is an environmental component, as OB-1 does not run on petroleum, but with recycled plastics and ultimately bio-source plastics.

Already revenue

On the economic model side, HyPrSpace is currently considering two options, as explained by its leader: “We are now considering building the launcher around our propulsion system and selling this rocket to a third party operator because we have evidence of commercial traction, and we could also consider operating our rocket ourselves to launch satellites. Customers in research, defense or telecommunications. “ Knowing that the start-up is already generating revenue through R&D contracts: 120,000 euros in 2021 and 600,000 euros just this year.

This first fundraising of 1.1 million euros should now enable the demonstration of OB-1 on scale 1 – ie. four meters long and one meter in diameter – in early 2023. Then it’s time to carry out a series A fundraiser of at least ten million euros, which would still only be a first step in an extremely capital-intensive sector. At that time, the Bordeaux company, which is currently based on the Talence University campus and is moving in a few weeks to Haillan, 500 meters from the ArianeGroup site, was to reach a workforce of twenty employees by the end of the year.