The competition from private companies in the space race is heating up, whether on the Moon, Mars or beyond. But with the ever-increasing focus on cleaner fuels and reducing our carbon footprint, some are working on ways to make space cleaner. Big names like SpaceX are flying rockets back to earth to be used again, but a Seattle-based startup wants to take it even further.
Stoke Space is developing rapidly reusable rockets that use clean fuel that can carry satellites into Earth orbit, while also protecting the planet itself by reducing emissions. Its founder and CEO is a veteran of Jeff Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin.
Stoke Space is still in the early stages of rocket testing and is a long way off from taking satellites into space. We are overcoming not only technology, but also regulatory and funding hurdles. But the plan is ambitious and built on the idea of launching more satellites to combat climate change.
Stoke Space CEO Andy Lapsa said:
The rocket is designed to ascend and then return to Earth, and both the lower and upper stages (also called boosters and second stages, respectively) are fully and instantly reusable.
“Because we don’t have to rebuild the rocket for each mission, we can move out of a production-limited paradigm and into an operations-limited paradigm, which is very important,” Lapsa added.
With more and more satellites being produced, Lapsa said there is now a “bottleneck” in the industry.
“There is a lot of latent demand, especially as we project that the launch industry is not yet in a good position or will not be able to meet it in the middle to end of this decade,” he said.
“When we think about everything we can do from space, for the planet, for the climate, we have to start with launch, and we have to start with something that is ultra-low-cost, sustainable and reusable. Breakthrough Energy Ventures partner and managing director Christian Garcia said:
Garcia also differentiates Stork from other competitors by pointing out that Stork is focused on climate issues on Earth rather than on trips to the Moon or Mars.
“We have long believed that space technology has a role to play in decarbonisation. I started thinking about how we would do things like detect methane leaks that cause massive warming, how would we detect wildfires in real time? How do we protect natural resources such as those that act as important types of carbon sinks in ecosystems?” he said.
In addition to Breakthrough Energy, investors include Spark Capital, Toyota Ventures, Point72 Ventures, Mac Venture Capital and NFX Ventures. It has raised $100 million so far.