Stoke Space reported on December 15 that it has raised $65 million in Series A financing to fund the construction and testing of the top stage of the reusable launch vehicle. Breakthrough Energy Ventures spearheaded the investment, according to the company, which is situated in the Seattle neighborhood of Kent, Washington. Toyota Ventures, Point72 Ventures, Alameda Research, Spark Capital, and Global Founders Capital are among the new investors in the round. Several investors from the company’s seed round of $9.1 million, announced in February, also took part.
Stoke stated earlier this year that it plans to start with the second stage of a totally reusable launch vehicle. This financing will allow the business to complete the creation of a prototype for that stage and execute a series of the flight tests beginning in late 2022, according to the company.
According to Andy Lapsa, who works as the co-founder as well as chief executive officer of Stoke, the tests would begin with low-altitude vertical takeoff as well as landing tests and advance to higher-altitude tests. The company’s test location in Moses Lake, Washington, will host the first flights, though he suggested high-altitude flights might need to be conducted elsewhere.
“We won’t travel to really high altitudes right away,” he said, “but it’s definitely in our test plan.” The low-altitude testing has some good objectives, from the GNC and the controls to have a working rocket engine.”
Many specifics regarding the company’s vehicle ideas and crucial technology have been kept under wraps. He did remark, however, that “brittle ceramic tiles” will not be used for thermal protection since they don’t match the vehicle’s specifications for a system which can be turned around quickly with minimal inspections. “Solving that issue was the core of our initial days, and we probably wouldn’t have established the company if we hadn’t produced something we thought was doable.”
The car does include an engine which looks “quite different from ordinary engines,” according to Lapsa, but no design specifics have been revealed. It will be able to operate at low altitudes and also in a vacuum thanks to this design. “For any of the small launchers, it will be by much the highest powerful rocket engine.”
Stoke has previously received NASA and National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research funding for a “new rocket engine configuration” for upper stages as well as planetary landers, as well as an “integrated propulsion approach to assist reusable upper stages.”
Stoke had five employees at the start of the year and currently has 29. Lapsa stated that the corporation plans to add more individuals, but not at a rapid pace. “With 29 people, we’re not going to create a complete rocket and then all the infrastructure that goes with it. However, the next phase of this project will not include hundreds of employees.”
He explained that Breakthrough Energy Ventures was chosen because they had similar ideas. “Our aim for this round was to attract long-term investors that are interested in frontier technology and hardware manufacturing.” “Using space to make life on Earth greater, more scalable, and sustainable is kind of our fundamental goal,” he stated. “It turns out they shared the same theory on space, which is a critical vertical for making the planet more environmentally friendly.”