Today the main news related to the private space race comes from three companies: SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. Of course they are not the only companies in the aerospace sector, but they are the largest. This is due to its economic power, capacity for technological development and the high profile of its CEOs. But the select group of billionaires who seek to conquer space – and that today make up Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos – is joined by a new member: Bill Gates. The founder of Microsoft, through Breakthrough Energy Ventures, led Stoke Space’s most recent investment round, a firm that aims to develop reusable rockets.
As published Space News in the last days, Stoke Space raised $ 65 million through Series A financing. Not only did the organization led by Bill Gates participate, but also Toyota Ventures and Global Founders Capital, among others. Details about the Seattle, Washington-based firm’s plans and technology are still scant; However, it is clear that the promise of innovation in the sector has been more than seductive for investors.
As we mentioned at the beginning, Stoke Space’s proposal is to develop rockets from scratch so that they are 100% reusable. As seen in some official photos, the first stage of development will focus on the second phase of the launch vehicle. In fact, the financing round led by Bill Gates and company will be used to complete the prototype of it and carry out the first flight tests at the end of 2022.
Heat shield and motors, the great challenges
There are two key points of innovation that Stoke Space focuses on: the heat shield and the motors. Regarding the first, Andy Lapsa, co-founder and CEO of the firm, indicated that will not use ceramic tiles; This is because they are brittle, and do not fit your goal of building a reusable rocket that requires minimal overhaul to fly again. The objective is ambitious, but the manager is confident: “If we hadn’t come up with something that we thought was executable, we probably wouldn’t have started the company.”
On the subject of engines, it is not known what will be the solution that the company will incorporate. Lapsa only mentioned that will not resemble existing boosters, and that it will be able to work both at low altitude and in a vacuum. But beyond the promise of versatility and performance, you’ll have to wait to see the real results. Let us remember that the development and manufacture of engines for a space rocket continues to be one of the SpaceX’s main concerns; and the Elon Musk firm has a few more years of experience in the aerospace market.
Stoke Space’s sustainable approach seduced Bill Gates
“Our goal for this round was to find investors who are long-term thinkers, looking for cutting edge technology and hardware manufacturing. It is our fundamental goal to use space to make life on Earth better, more scalable and sustainable, “said Lapsa of Bill Gates’s involvement with Breakthrough Energy Ventures.
For their part, the organization mentioned that the greatest problem of innovation in space is divided into two parts; on the one hand, the high cost, and on the other, the lack of availability of launches. With Stoke Space, investors believe that the goal of developing “ultra-low-cost” and rapid-launch vehicles is achievable.
For now, Stoke Space already has fresh money and the endorsement of Bill Gates to advance its reusable rockets. While there is no specific date for the first flights, it is expected that initially are low in altitude to test vertical take-off and landing. “We’re not going to go super high from the start, but it’s certainly in our test plan,” Lapsa said.
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