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RFA Submits Argo Spacecraft to ESA Commercial Cargo Transportation Initiative

A consortium led by German launch startup Rocket Factory Augsburg has submitted the "Argo" spacecraft to the ESA CCTI.

  • First launch before end of 2028
  • Launch vehicle agnostic
  • Can hold ~71,666 average sized bananas
  • "Argo is Cargo but without the C-osts"
Jay Keegan

Jay Keegan

Thu Sep 21 2023Written by Jay Keegan

A consortium led by German launch startup Rocket Factory Augsburg has submitted the "Argo" spacecraft to the ESA Commercial Cargo Transportation Initiative. "Argo is Cargo but without the C-osts"

In May, ESA launched a new initiative to seek proposals from European companies to develop a domestic cargo launch capability for the International Space Station and future commercial stations. The program is similar to that of NASAs Commercial Resupply Services program which has proven extremely successful.

The initiative gives the chosen companies full authority and responsibility with ESA acting as a customer. ““In this context, ESA is giving opportunities to European industry to provide a service-based offer for cargo services in support of the International Space Station and future low Earth-orbit destinations,” explains Frank De Winne, ESA’s International Space Station Manager.

RFA, a leading startup in the European launch market, have proposed their new “Argo” spacecraft. Argo’s specifications are as follows

Created by Jay Keegan for TLP Network

“ESA and its Member States are preparing for when the International Space Station is retired: an environment where space agencies are customers rather than owners of space infrastructure.”, Frank De Winne


The initiative is split into three phases:

  • In Phase 1-1, which is the subject of the present Call for Proposals, up to two companies will be selected to advance their cargo delivery services up to the definition of a preliminary design and the securing of appropriate third-party financing. (Sep. 2023 – June 2024)
  • In Phase 1-2, the service design of those companies that were successful in Phase 1-1 will be finalised and test articles produced to de-risk the most critical areas. In parallel, the companies involved will continue to secure the necessary third-party financing. (July 2024 – Dec 2025)
  • Phase 2 is the final step leading to the demonstration mission to the ISS before the end of 2028. This phase will be open to all companies, not just those that participated in Phase 1, as part of a separate procurement action.

ESA requires that the spacecraft be “launch vehicle agnostic”, this means that the craft must be able to launch aboard any launcher, not just those the company designs it for. Such requirements are vital to ensuring redundancy in space, as was recently proven with the termination of Antares 230 resulting in Cygnus flying aboard Falcon 9.


More information expected in the coming days.