The US-based startup, iRocket, has been chosen to execute a demonstration of its reusable rocket engine in development, a project backed by the US Space Force. The deal between the nascent company and the US Space Systems Command is valued at a significant $1.8 million, aiming to develop a small carrier system that can be promptly reused post-landing.
The enterprise, also known as Innovative Rocket Technologies, recently announced its contract signing with the Space Systems Command of the US Space Force. Under this agreement, iRocket is mandated to showcase the reusable rocket engine it has been creating for small launch systems over several years. The $1.8 million contract forms a part of the Tactical Funding Increase (TACFI) program, in which both governmental and private investors share the costs equally.
Incorporated a few years back, iRocket has been consistently developing rocket engines since 2018, with future aspirations to construct a carrier vehicle. The terms of the contract necessitate iRocket to conduct a static test of the developed propulsion unit, estimated to last between 120 to 180 seconds. This exercise aims to verify the engine’s capability, fuelled by a mixture of liquid oxygen (LOX) and methane, to generate 15 tons of thrust. Furthermore, iRocket is expected to complete the design of a small launch system named “Shockwave”, which is projected to debut around 2027.
iRocket emphasises that the launch system should be capable of delivering payloads to multiple orbits, inclusive of LEO and GEO within a 24-hour launch cycle, and also be utilised for lunar missions and initiatives of paramount importance to US national security. “Our launch vehicle is aimed at addressing the demand for reduced launch costs and elevated operational speed in resource delivery to orbit. Given its highly controllable autonomous vertical landing ability, the Shockwave vehicle also caters to the need for rapid, secure point-to-point payload delivery on the ground,” explained Asad Malik, the founder and CEO of iRocket.
This award derives funding from the AFWERX initiative, an undertaking supervised by the U.S. Air Force with the intention of backing innovative projects via collaboration between the military and small businesses. iRocket guarantees that continued funding for the development of the engine will enable the Shockwave rocket to land both its first and second stages and be promptly reusable, akin to aero engines.