The founders of Isar Aerospace (from left): Josef Fleischmann, Markus Brandl and Daniel Metzler.
The founders of Isar Aerospace (from left): Josef Fleischmann, Markus Brandl and Daniel Metzler.
Image: Isar Aerospace Technologies GmbH
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Reading time: 4 MIN

TUM spin-off Isar Aerospace begins production of launch vehiclesQuick and clean satellite launches

In the coming years, tens of thousands of small satellites will be fired into outer space worldwide. Isar Aerospace, a start-up formed at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), has developed a small, low-cost launch vehicle specifically designed to carry small satellites into orbit. Manufacturing is now set to begin in Ottobrunn, just outside Munich and a short distance away from TUM's Department of Aerospace and Geodesy. The production halls were officially opened today with the Bavarian Minister President Dr. Markus Söder and TUM President Prof. Dr. Thomas F. Hofmann in attendance.

In contrast to traditional satellites, which weigh several tons, modern small satellites top out at 500 kilograms or less. This is possible thanks to efficient electric drive motors and the miniaturization of electronic components. The production costs are lower, too, making it feasible to send entire swarms of satellites into orbit, for example to improve internet connectivity or generate earth observation data.

These small satellites are placed in low orbits at around 500 kilometers above the Earth's surface. This permits the rapid transmission of data to the ground. But how can tens of thousands of small satellites be launched into orbit as efficiently, cost-effectively and cleanly as possible? "Most launch vehicles are poorly suited to this task," says Daniel Metzler, one of the co-founders of the Isar Aerospace start-up.

Rockets tailored to the transport of small satellites

The idea of building a rocket capable of carrying a maximum load of 1000 kilograms to an altitude of 500 kilometers with maximum efficiency was born in 2017 at TUM in the workshops of the student group WARR (Scientific Workgroup for Rocketry and Space Flight). Metzler and his team developed a small engine for a research rocket. An online video the students created about their project sparked numerous enquiries from industry.  

"That's when we realized that we had stumbled on a market opportunity. We then decided to build our own rocket – tailored to the transport of small satellites," recalls the engineer. "The idea was to improve our propulsion technology: Launch vehicles in Europe have always used different engines for the first and second stages. Our concept was to use clusters of identical engines instead. This can bring substantial savings in development and production costs."

Production halls opened in Ottobrunn

Josef Fleischmann, Markus Brandl and Daniel Metzler – who all studied aerospace engineering at TUM – launched their Isar Aerospace startup in early 2018 with the support of TUM. The founders took part in the XPRENEURS program operated by UnternehmerTUM,  the Center for Innovation and Business Creation at TUM. The first engine component prototypes were made in the MakerSpace high-tech workshop in Garching. Seed capital was invested by UnternehmerTUM Venture Capital Partners and private investors. The new company also received support from the ESA Business Incubation Center in Oberpfaffenhofen.

After two years of development work, they have reached a key milestone: Their first rocket is now going into production. On Monday of this week, with Bavarian Minister President Dr. Markus Söder and TUM President Prof. Dr. Thomas F. Hofmann in attendance, the young entrepreneurs opened their 4500 square meter production halls in Ottobrunn. The facility is located just a few kilometers away from the Ludwig Bölkow Campus, where the TUM Department of Aerospace and Geodesy has its main headquarters.

Clean propulsion

According to Metzler, the company already has "interest worth several hundred million euros," for the planned rocket, which is 27 meters long and 2 meters in diameter. Most enquiries are from Europe. The company's workforce has now grown to 100 employees.

The first transport rocket, loaded with small satellites, is due to be launched into orbit in 2021. It will be propelled by a cluster of small engines. Cost-effective and fully automated production will be achieved through 3D printing technology. The engines will be powered by innovative light fuels that will burn cleanly and efficiently under high pressure in the combustion chambers. "In this way we achieve a high level of energy conversion," says Metzler.

If all goes according to plan, series production will then begin immediately: Isar Aeropace then plans to build 20 rockets per year.

More information:

  • Every year TUM spawns more than 70 technology-focused spinouts. TUM and UnternehmerTUM support start-ups with programs tailored to the various phases of building a business – from creating the business model to management training, and from market entry to a possible IPO. Up to 30 teams can use offices in the TUM Incubator at a given time to plan the launch of their companies – with the most promising candidates travelling to Silicon Valley for two weeks with the support of TUM. UnternehmerTUM invests through its own venture capital fund, UVC, in tech companies displaying strong potential and with MakerSpace and the Bio.Kitchen, provides a 1500 square meter high-tech prototype workshop and biotechnology lab. According to "Startup Radar", a survey conducted by Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, no German university provides better support for student start-ups.
  • The Department of Aerospace and Geodesy (LRG) was established as the 15th academic department at TUM in the spring of 2018. From new transport systems to communications and satellite technology and the observation and measurement of the planet: In cooperation with geodetic disciplines, the fields of aeronautics and aerospace are thus transformed into "Mission Planet Earth". The department's main headquarters are located in Taufkirchen/Ottobrunn.

Technical University of Munich

Corporate Communications Center S. Reiffert

Article at

Two participants of the Think.Make.Start hackathon

Germany’s best launching pad for start-ups

At the Technical University of Munich (TUM), start-up initiatives receive optimal support. Thus concludes the latest “Gründungsradar” survey. For the fourth straight year, TUM is ranked number one among large Germany...

Hanno Renner, CEO of Personio

Start-up Personio valued at over 1 billion dollars

For the third time, a company spun out of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has been valued by investors at 1 billion dollars or more. After Celonis and Lilium, Personio has achieved the "unicorn" status. The company...

Team des Start-up Kewazo

Building Europe’s leading innovation hub

The Technical University of Munich (TUM) and its affiliated institute UnternehmerTUM are launching an initiative – unique in Europe – to support start-ups rooted in top-level research: In key technological fields such as...

Aerospace laboratory

Online course explores the transformation of aerospace

Aerospace is an engine of technological change that is itself undergoing a far-reaching transformation through digital technologies. The new online course "Digitalisation in Aeronautics and Space" offers insights into this...

A Hyperloop tube in Bavaria: a team from the Technical University of Munich is researching this vision.

TUM launches hyperloop research program

It is designed to move passengers at close to the speed of sound: the Hyperloop. In international competitions, students of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have already demonstrated that they can build passenger...

The Lilium Founders (from left to right): Sebastian Born, Patrick Nathen, Daniel Wiegand, Matthias Meiner.

The TUM start-up family boasts its second "unicorn"

Its product is designed to impact the future of mobility: Lilium, a start-up founded at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), is developing an electric-powered flying taxi. Based on its technology and the successes of...

TUM-President Prof. Wolfgang A. Herrmann, Domenik Radeck, Sofía Ramírez, Minister President Dr. Markus Söder, TUM-Vice-President Prof. Thomas Hofmann, Gabriele Semino,  Bavarian Minister of Science and Art Bernd Sibler.

Bavaria boosts the Hyperloop vision

The Technical University of Munich (TUM) is racing to the future with the Hyperloop. Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk came up with the idea of a high-speed train that will move through a tube at close to the speed of...

TUM President Prof. Wolfgang A. Herrmann with Bavarian Minister President Dr. Markus Söder.

Aviation, aerospace and geodesy "take off"

The new Technical University of Munich (TUM) Department of Aerospace and Geodesy (LRG) will be launched in this year's winter semester, as announced by Bavarian Minister President Dr. Markus Söder in his policy statement of...

Der Kleinsatellit MOVE-II ist ins All gestartet.

TUM satellite launched into space

Students at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed a fully functional mini-satellite in the project MOVE-II. A Falcon 9 rocket launched yesterday in California carried the satellite into orbit, where it...