In a significant stride towards achieving a fully reusable launch system, Seattle-based startup Stoke Space successfully tested its developmental rocket vehicle, the "Hopper", today. The four-year-old company conducted this milestone event at its test facility at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington. The hydrogen-fueled Hopper2 rocket engine propelled the test vehicle to an altitude of 30 feet and landed just 15 feet from the launch pad. Stoke CEO, Andy Lapsa, confirmed the success of this latest test, the final stage in their Hopper development program.
Stoke Space, founded in 2019 by Andy Lapsa and Tom Feldman, both veterans of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture, has been steadily making advancements in reusable rocket technology. The Hopper program was specifically designed to develop and validate numerous new and innovative technology elements that go into the reusable second-stage system. Among these, the actively cooled, regeneratively cooled heat shield and a unique rocket engine that uses a single set of turbo machinery feeding an array of thrusters are notable. Lapsa also hinted at Stoke Space’s rocket possibly being the first to utilize differential-thrust vector control for attitude control since its last use in 1972 by the Soviet N1 moon rocket.
Stoke Space Achieves Major Milestone with Successful Rocket Test
Stoke Space, a Seattle-based startup, has successfully conducted an up-and-down test of its "Hopper" developmental rocket vehicle. This achievement marks a significant step forward in Stoke’s ambition to create a fully reusable launch system.
Test Flight Highlights
The 15-second test flight took place at Stoke’s facility at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington. The hydrogen-fueled rocket engine propelled the vehicle to a height of 30 feet, landing 15 feet from the launch pad. Stoke CEO Andy Lapsa confirmed the test as the final one in Hopper’s development program and hailed it as a tremendous success.
A Leap in Reusable Rocket Technology
The Hopper program’s primary aim has been to develop a reusable second-stage system. This involves proving out new and novel technology elements, including an actively cooled, regeneratively cooled heat shield, and a unique rocket engine. Lapsa noted that Stoke’s rocket might be the first instance of using differential-thrust vector control for attitude control since 1972 – a method previously employed by the last Soviet N1 moon rocket.
Stoke’s Journey and Future Plans
Founded in 2019 by Lapsa, a Blue Origin veteran, and Tom Feldman, who also worked at Blue Origin after interning at SpaceX, Stoke Space has come a long way. The company operates a 21,000-square-foot engineering and manufacturing headquarters in Kent, Washington, and has raised $65 million in a funding round led by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures.
In their next steps, Stoke plans to focus on developing their rocket’s first stage and ramping up operations in Florida. The company aims to eventually offer a fully reusable launch system, which could potentially compete with SpaceX’s Starship system.
Stoke Space’s test flight represents a significant step forward in the development of reusable space launch systems. The company’s progress showcases the continued growth and dynamism in the private space industry. The focus on reusability aligns with the broader industry trend of reducing costs and environmental impacts. As Stoke Space continues its journey, it will be interesting to see how it shapes the future of space exploration.