Encyclopedia Astronautica

Spanish all-solid orbital launch vehicle. Small all-solid-propellant launch vehicle pursued by Spain in 1992-1999. Cancelled in 2000 before any flights could be made.

In 1992 Spain's National Institute for Aerospace Technology (INTA) announced plans to develop a national capability in space launch vehicles. The Capricorno would be a small orbital launch vehicle with a payload capacity of 100 kg into 600 km polar orbits. The vehicle's first stage was initially designed to use the solid rocket motor developed for the Argentino-Egypto-Iraqi Condor-2 ballistic missile. This had been scuppered with Iraq's loss of the Gulf War and the subsequent crackdown by the United States on ballistic missile proliferation. However Argentina saw some hope to continue its development as a space launcher and had up to 30 motors already built. INTA was to produce a solid-propellant second stage. The third stage was an open issue. El Aranosillo on Spain's Atlantic Coast was to be the initial launch site, with later launches from the Canary Islands. With the determined US effort to ensure the Condor did not go into production anywhere in the world, the project languished during the 1990's.

The project seemed to have new life when an announcement was made at the Paris Air Show on June 16, 1997. INTA announced that the American Castor-4B solid rocket motor had been selected as the first stage for Capricornio. Thiokol was contracted by INTA to provide motors for the first two Capricornio missions, with the initial flight scheduled for 1999. Total payload of this version would be only 50 kg into a 700 km altitude sun-synchronous orbit.

Capricornio's maiden flight in 1999 was to carry two small satellites. Nanosat was under development by the Polytechnic University of Madrid to provide a communications link between the Spanish Antarctic and the home country. The Venus communications satellite was a joint effort of the Polytechnic University of Madrid and other universities in Mexico and Argentina. It was designed to provide students with hands-on satellite operations experience.

However the necessary funding for the project was not forthcoming from the Spanish government. The project folded almost immediately after this announcement. Further European work on small solid-propellant launchers was subsumed into the Italian effort. The Polytechnic University of Madrid's satellite was finally launched as LBSAT as a piggy-back Ariane 4 payload on July 7, 1995.

LEO Payload: 50 kg (110 lb) to a 700 km orbit at 98.00 degrees.

Status: Cancelled 1999.
Gross mass: 15,035 kg (33,146 lb).
Payload: 50 kg (110 lb).
Height: 18.20 m (59.70 ft).
Diameter: 1.00 m (3.20 ft).
Span: 1.00 m (3.20 ft).
Thrust: 330.00 kN (74,180 lbf).
Apogee: 700 km (430 mi).

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
See also
Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • INTA Spanish agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial, Torrejon, Spain. More...

  • McDowell, Jonathan, Launch Log, October 1998. Web Address when accessed: here.

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