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SpaceX rival from Munich lands €40.5M funding to fly cargo and humans into space

The Exploration Company team
Image credits: The Exploration Company

It was just the beginning of 2023, when Elon Musk’s re-usable rocket maker and satellite internet company SpaceX was in news to raise $750 million in a new round of funding that values the company at $137 billion.

Now its German rival, The Exploration Company, is making waves for designing the first European space capsule that will use green propellants and open source its operating system. The European space tech company has now raised €40.5 million in Series A funding led by Europe’s leading early-stage investors EQT Ventures and Red River West. Further, new and existing investors participated, including Promus Ventures, Cherry Ventures, Vsquared, Omnes Capital, July Fund, Partech, Possible Ventures, Habert Dassault Finance, Schlumberger and Sista Fund.

As a result of this investment, The Exploration Company will build a sustainable, reusable space capsule that can be used by private and public operators to fly cargo into space, resupply space stations, and transport humans at a later time.

Maiden flights in 2024 and 2026

The startup has built its first re-entry demonstrator in 9 months, and is currently developing its second demonstrator that will fly into space and re-enter the atmosphere in a controlled manner, safely bringing back to Earth cargo payloads from clients – including several space agencies in Europe. There are plans for maiden flights to take place in 2024 and 2026, according to the company’s press release.

Hélène Huby, Co-Founder and CEO explained: “Within this decade, we will see humanity expand into space and building space stations, sometimes in partnership with the private sector, around the Earth and the Moon, paving the way for humans’ sustainable settlement on the Moon and beyond.”

Red River West Founding Partner, Alfred, Vericel said: “The mission of Red River West is to invest in European entrepreneurs who build global and impactful companies which we scale together in the US. We are proud to contribute to The Exploration Company’s development.” 

EQT Ventures Partner, Ted Persson, said: “Hélène and the team have brought together a unique mix of world-class industry veterans and young space and software engineers to capitalise on a huge market opportunity and will ultimately enable Europe – and others – to participate in the discovery of the new space worlds, in a sustainable and cooperative manner.”

Democratise space exploration

During 2022, funding for space startups halved to $21.9 billion, the lowest level since the 2008 economic crisis. However, there is great potential for Europe’s commercial space industry: estimates state the market will reach $40 billion by 2035 and $70 billion with human spaceflight. As of yet, there is no European solution for transporting people and goods to the space stations around the Earth and the Moon.

Founded in July 2021 by Hélène Huby in Munich, The Exploration Company has a team of aerospace engineers who have worked on some of the biggest space programs such as Orion-ESM, Ariane, etc. By providing Europe with the capacity to explore new space worlds, the company creates a sustainable, affordable and alternative global player, and has already signed several European space agencies as clients.

In addition, Munich-based space technology will commercialise its maiden capsule, Nyx Mission Odyssey, which will fly goods to space stations and return to Earth. Also, it will finalize and fly its second demonstration capsule, Nyx Mission Possible, which will perform a controlled re-entry into the atmosphere.

Besides Nyx, The Exploration Company is also developing open interface software and hardware available in a SpaceStore, enabling customers to build on these open interfaces, and develop the platform that suits their needs.

Eventually, Nyx will carry humans and goods into space to service space stations and conduct long-range exploration. Moreover, the vehicle can be refueled in orbit, extending its potential mission duration. Moreover, it can be launched by a variety of rockets, making it launcher agnostic.

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