iRocket contracts with US Space Force to transform how launch vehicles are powered

Innovative Rocket Technologies Inc. (iRocket), a company that provides low-cost and rapid access to space with its 100% reusable rockets, announced that it signed a contract with the U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command (SSC). Under the contract, iRocket will further develop its highly reusable rocket engine, which will transform how to launch vehicles are powered with clean, sustainable propellant and 24-hour turnaround launch cycles. The contract, in the amount of $1.8 million is funded through AFWERX, the innovation arm of the Department of the Air Force and a Technology Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

Designed for delivering payloads to multiple orbits including LEO, GEO, and the moon, the iRocket Shockwave launch vehicle will also be used for critical cargo delivery for national security and humanitarian aid missions. Under the Space Force contract, iRocket will perform a full-duration static fire test for 120-180 seconds to demonstrate its 35,000 lbs. thrust reusable engine that runs on an environmentally safe combination of liquid oxygen (LOX) and methane fuel.

The contract is a Tactical Funding Increase (TACFI), which continues development following the July 2020 Phase II SBIR contract, during which iRocket successfully demonstrated three operation modes of its innovative booster engine: Augmented, Unaugmented, and Landing mode. The engine enables the Shockwave launch vehicle to land in both the first and second stages, including the fairing and is designed for immediate reuse.

“We believe this contract extension is a clear endorsement of the value our technology brings to national security missions,” said Asad Malik, founder and CEO of iRocket. “The AFWERX mission is to help the Space Force benefit from innovation coming out of private sector companies such as iRocket. Our launcher meets the need for lower launch cost and increased operational tempo in delivering assets to orbit and because of its highly controlled autonomous vertical landing capability, the Shockwave vehicle also meets the need for fast, secure, point-to-point cargo delivery on the ground.”

Unlike other launch vehicles that are considered reusable, the Shockwave engine was purpose-built for frequent reuse, like an airplane engine. The LOX/methane combination burns clean and doesn’t cause residue or build up that needs to be removed before relaunch and its single combustor design produces low turbine temperatures for reliability and easy maintenance.

Targeted for 300 to 1500 kg payloads, the Shockwave launcher is 125-feet tall and has a nine-foot diameter. Its vertical takeoff configuration enables inland launch capability. iRocket previously received a Phase I and Phase II contract with the Space System Command in Albuquerque, N.M., and the Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The company plans to launch its first vehicle in late 2027.