The Ultimate Guide to Argo: Our Cost-Effective Cargo Capsule

The image shows the ARGO capsule approaching the International Space Station

Meet Argo, our cost-effective space cargo capsule. Optimized for flexibility and reliability, Argo offers an end-to-end service at a low price point of just €150M. Led by RFA, the bidding consortium combines our expertise with that from Space Cargo Unlimited, along with partners like ATMOS Space Cargo to offer a fully reusable solution for the European Space Agency and commercial clients.

Instead of giving you a formal press release, we decided the best way to talk about Argo would be to talk directly with YOU. So, we asked you to submit any pressing questions you had about Argo and promised to answer some of them in a future post.

Rocket Factory Augsburg post on X (twitter) that reads: "Good morning Europe! Got questions about Argo? Ask us directly in the comments! We will answer some in a future post."

However, you came up with such great questions that we decided we couldn’t choose just some to answer. So we’re giving you answers to every single one! Before we dive into your questions, let’s first take a look at why Argo, as a concept, exists in the first place.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Why Europe Needs Space Cargo Capabilities

While Europe’s space capabilities are still world class, it is no longer the space power it once was due to the lack of autonomy.


But with a booming New Space industry and innovative initiatives, the doors are open to achieve the European Space Agency’s ambition to position Europe as a global space power once again by 2035. One such initiative is the competition opened by ESA in November 2023 for a European cargo service to and from space stations in Low Earth Orbit. Since the termination of ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), we have had to rely on international sources for our space cargo needs. The recent call from ESA shows their commitment to developing Europe’s future as a global space leader once more.


Argo is our answer to this call. But it’s also more than that. Argo is not “just” a supply service for space stations. It stands as a symbol of Europe’s leadership and innovation in the New Space economy.

The Inspiration Behind Argo

Image of a reply received on X (Twitter) asking why RFA is sending a Fiat to space with an external link to the Wikipedia page about the Fiat Argo.

As much fun as it would be to send a Brazilian-built Fiat to space, that’s not quite what we had in mind when we came up with the name for our cost-effective cargo capsule.


The meaning behind the name Argo is two-fold. The main reason is simple: It’s Cargo, without the (C)osts. The second reason is that our pre-development team was inspired by the legendary Argo ship in Greek mythology.


Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get on with the rest of your questions. We’ve broken them down into categories, so please don’t stress if we don’t answer all questions shown in the screenshots in one go.

Chapter 2: Launch Details and Vehicle Compatibility

1) Which rocket will launch Argo into orbit?

Unsurprisingly, but understandably, we got a LOT of questions about Argo’s launch vehicle.

According to the requirements of ESA, Argo is developed for use on any launcher. At a minimum, it is compatible with current and future European medium to heavy-lift launch vehicles, but can also fly with other medium or heavy-lift launch vehicles if needed.

This approach makes Argo launch agnostic and capable of offering a 100% flexible and customer-oriented service.

2) Will Argo launch on an RFA-built launch vehicle?

Although Argo is compatible with other existing and upcoming launchers, the most cost-effective solution would be to launch on our very own medium or heavy-lift launch system. This enables us to offer a full end-to-end cargo service for 4,000kg to and from orbit.


As one person pointed out, RFA ONE is indeed too small to carry Argo. But that was never our plan. ESA’s requirement is that we must launch Argo by 2028 – and by then the European Launcher Challenge will presumably provide the framework for the development of a larger RFA rocket. So we move step by step and start with our RFA ONE which, you’ll know, is due to launch in summer 2024 and is already fully booked for its two test flights.

3) When is the maiden flight planned?

the image shows a twitter comment asking for technical and financial aspects of Argo

Tying in nicely to the previous point, we can confirm that we plan to implement Argo’s first demo mission in 2028.

4) What is the expected annual cadence?

the image shows a twitter comment asking for technical data about Argo

During our market research, we found a substantial global demand for cargo transportation missions. After its first demo mission in 2028, we plan to make the service commercially available from 2029 onward, with the aim to increase cadence as needed to serve the market.

Chapter 3: Design and Specifications

1) What are the dimensions of Argo?

Argo will be 3.7 m in diameter and 7.7 m long (without its fairing). It will have a 1:1 ratio between its up and down cargo mass – one of its most unique features. How do we achieve the same up-and-down mass? With an Inflatable Atmospheric Decelerator (IAD), provided by our partner Atmos Space Cargo.


The main structural elements of Argo can easily be scaled in a fast and cheap way. Using our building block approach, it’s possible to add segments to the existing capsule. We can also scale the propulsion system and propellant storage with minimal changes elsewhere, making Argo more flexible for future space stations in LEO. Of course, service evolution depends entirely on market demands and trends. But what we’re saying is that we will be ready!

2) What is the internal volume and cargo capacity?

Argo has a dry mass of 5,200 kg without cargo, a total internal pressurized volume of 27.9 cubic meters and a pressurized cargo volume of 15.5 cubic meters. It can carry up to 4,000 kg of cargo to and from orbit.

3) What rocket engines will be used on Argo?

the image shows a twitter comment asking for technical data about Argo

Two RFA Fenix engines will power Argo in orbit, with an additional 24x 100 N Thrusters for the Reaction Control System (RCS). The Fenix engines use bi-propellant and will already have flight heritage from RFA ONE. Argo has an estimated propellant mass of 3,082 kg.

Chapter 4: Functionality and Operations

1) Can it carry cube sats or unpressurized cargo?

Cube Sats are a critical part of the LEO research environment. Our RFA ONE with Redshift OTV already offers satellite deployment capabilities, but we also see potential future opportunities for adding dispensers to Argo to complement the Redshift service.

2) Can it bring cargo back down to Earth?

Argo will utilize its Inflatable Atmospheric Decelerator to allow the entire vehicle to return to Earth and safely land with up to 4000 kg of cargo. The position of the Inflatable Atmospheric Decelerator (IAD) was moved from the front in Version 1 to the back in the current version, but this doesn’t change the functionality or effectiveness of the return module. We can confirm that Argo is capable of safe re-entry.

3) How long can Argo stay in space?

Our demo mission in 2028 will last a total of 25 days. Argo will spend three of those days getting to the ISS, 20 days docked, and 2 further days for undocking, re-entry and recovery. However, Argo is designed to service our customers and their needs. Therefore, it’s possible for Argo to remain in orbit for over one year, if required.

4) What will be the delta v?

the image shows a screenshot of an instagram story in which an user asked: "what will be the delta v of Argo and will it be compatible with other launch systems as well?"

For the demo mission in 2028, we have enough delta v to reach ISS and safely re-enter – around 1,000 m/s.

5) What about a reaction control system?

the image shows a screenshot of an instagram story in which an user asked: "are you going to develop a reaction control system for the Argo?"

Yes. As previously mentioned, the primary propulsion system uses the existing Fenix engine and 24 100 N thrusters make up the Reaction Control System.

6) Is the entire capsule pressurized?

the image shows a screenshot of an instagram story in which an user asked: "is the whole capsule under pressure? Is there a roadmap for publicity?"

The front of the vehicle is pressurized, with the middle section containing the service module and the rear end comprising the Inflatable Atmospheric Decelerator and Fenix engines.


For more information on the specifics of each module, you can watch our animation video.

Chapter 5: Mission and Usage

1) Will Argo service other space stations apart from the ISS?

The first question has a very simple answer: ESA requested docking. This makes Argo compatible with other planned commercial stations. So yes, Argo will be able to service other space stations in the future.


Currently, there are no plans for Argo to refuel a space station, but it can provide significant orbit-raising maneuvers.

2) Can it be used for in-orbit experiments?

the image shows a twitter comment asking if Argo could be used for in-orbit science experiments, without docking to the ISS

Absolutely! Argo can be used for in-orbit experiments with or without docking to the ISS or any other space station. Specifically, Argo can induce spin to generate up to Martian gravity along the cylindrical hull of the pressure vessel.

3) Is Argo only for LEO?

The image shows a screenshot of a twitter comment which says: "only for LEO or will it have a luna rated heatshield?"

With its current re-entry profile and decelerator (heatshield), Argo is specifically optimized for LEO. However, our preliminary analysis did not find any showstoppers for modifying the trajectory and/or decelerator for re-entry after departing from Gateway, so who knows what could happen in the future…👀

Chapter 6: Reusability

1) How is Argo fully reusable?

Argo will be fully reusable. This reusability starts from the first mission with immediate post-recovery actions like de-salting and unloading payload, followed by refurbishment. Argo returns to Earth enveloped and protected by the cutting-edge technologies of the large IAD, allowing a fast turnaround time on refurbishment and expedited reuse. This also helps keep costs low and offer short response times for emergency delivery.


Its design is based on existing technologies from our partners and also our RFA ONE and Redshift OTV. This allows us to provide modularity and be cost-competitive, but we also have the goal of full reusability. After our first demo mission with Argo, we will analyze and further refine the reusable aspects to meet our goals effectively.

Chapter 7: Market and Commercial Viability

1) Is Argo just a smaller ATV?

the image shows a twitter comment asking if argo is like a smaller version of the ESA's ATV

Sure, Argo is similar in appearance to ATV. But most importantly, Argo is unique because, until now, it has not been possible to return cylindrically shaped capsules to Earth. This will be possible with Argo thanks to the Inflatable Atmospheric Decelerator. By the same means, Argo is also capable of returning to Earth with the same amount of mass as it delivers to orbit. Overall, Argo benefits from several decades of development since ATV and the heritage from RFA ONE launch system.

2) What makes Argo different to other commercial vehicles?

the image shows a screenshot of an instagram story post, where the question appears, "what makes argo different to other commercial vehicles?"

It all comes down to the Inflatable Atmospheric Decelerator (IAD). This technology enables the uniqueness of using a stainless steel cylindrical capsule. It is this benefit that makes us different thanks to three key commercial factors:

  • Competitive service price point starting at 150 million EUR
  • Equal up and down cargo ratio of 4000 kg
  • Offering a fully integrated end-to-end service with an RFA launch system

3) Can commercial industries book Argo?

the image shows a screenshot of an instagram story in which an user asked: "can the space craft be booked by commercial industry, to perform resurching in zero gravity?"

Yes! Argo is strategically oriented towards commercial viability. We warmly welcome collaboration and partnership from diverse commercial sectors and encourage companies to leverage Argo for innovative scientific research and exploration.

4) Is there a roadmap?

the image shows a screenshot of an instagram story in which an user asked: "is the whole capsule under pressure? Is there a roadmap for publicity?"

In short: Yes. From the start, we envisioned Argo as more than just a cargo delivery system to LEO. Together with our partners, we have created a detailed roadmap on how further capabilities can be achieved in a reasonable time frame. If you’re asking what exactly that roadmap is, well, you’ll just have to wait and see…

Chapter 8: Cost and Budget

1) How much does an Argo mission cost?

Argo’s services start at 150 million EUR per launch.

Our analysis was based on publicly available information and showed that Argo is highly competitive and significantly undercuts the prices offered by competitors. For reference, ATV claimed to be 300 million EUR per launch.

Chapter 9: Partnerships and Outreach

1) Will you reveal more at Space Creator Day 2024?

the image shows a twitter comment asking if community will see more at the next space creator day

You’ll just have to come along to find out. See you there to discuss Argo, RFA ONE, Redshift and other awesome space things!

2) Can you share more on your partnership with Space Cargo Unlimited?

the image shows a LinkedIn comment asking for details on a partnership with Space Cargo Unlimited.

Space Cargo Unlimited is committed to developing, delivering and operating the outfitting capabilities of Argo to play the role of commercial services provider for microgravity research in space at a high-value benefit on Earth. Their REV1 vehicle is considered an alternative return solution that will be further investigated during the project in line with the technical feasibility and/or the market needs  The core of Argo would remain the same, and another scenario could see REV1 Max added to the front end of the capsule.

Chapter 10: Testing and Development

1) Is there an Argo prototype?

The picture shows a tweet asking "How far are you in building a prototype?" dated March 13th

Lucky for us, Argo is based on a combination of existing technology through European partnerships. Therefore, we can use a building blocks approach to build the capsule. The Fenix engines will see their first flight on RFA ONE this year. A subscale IAD has already been tested and is planned to gain its flight heritage on the SpaceX Transporter mission in 2025. And the stainless steel tanks and CFRP structures will also be flight-qualified on RFA ONE. We are confident that all critical systems of Argo will reach TRL 6 in 2026 for its first demo mission in 2028.

2) Have you started parachute testing?

the image shows a twitter comment asking if RFA stared parachute testing

The beauty of Argo is that parachutes are not needed. The Inflatable Atmospheric Decelerator (IAD) fully covers re-entry and deceleration prior to splash down in the ocean.

Chapter 11: Future Development

1) Any plans for a crewed version of Argo?

Along with questions about the launch vehicle, this question popped up most often. We understand why – you’re curious!


And we want to be transparent. Argo’s journey does not end with cargo delivery to LEO. It is deliberately designed to evolve into a comprehensive exploration and transportation system to push the boundaries of human presence in space.

the image shows a screenshot of an instagram story in which an user asked: "can I be shipped in argo too?"

To answer this, we’ll just say: Have patience.


And we’ll leave this here…

the image shows the ARGO capsule flying threw the orbit

Discover More About Argo

We hope you enjoyed this deep dive into Argo. We certainly enjoyed answering all your questions! If you want to check out more details about Argo, you can see some of our recent social media posts.


Alternatively, you can visit our dedicated Argo webpage at


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