Engine test stands at Ursa Major's headquarters in Berthoud, Colorado.Engine test stands at Ursa Major's headquarters in Berthoud, Colorado.

Air Force Research Laboratory Selects Leading U.S. Rocket Propulsion Company Ursa Major to Provide Hypersonics and Space Launch Capabilities

|Press Release

Contract funds development of storable “Draper” engine for hypersonic defense and 200,000-pound thrust “Arroway” engine as an RD-series replacement 

DENVER - May 18, 2023 - Ursa Major, America's leading privately funded company focused solely on rocket propulsion, today announced a contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to advance U.S. hypersonics defense programs and space launch capabilities.  

Under the contract, Ursa Major will build and test a prototype of its new Draper engine for hypersonics, and further develop its 200,000-pound thrust Arroway engine for space launch.

“Ursa Major continues to be an important partner to AFRL as we build hypersonics capabilities and remove America’s dependence on foreign propulsion systems for launch,” said Shawn Phillips, Chief of AFRL’s Rocket Propulsion Division. 

About Draper 

The Draper engine is a 4,000-pound-thrust closed cycle hydrogen peroxide engine designed for hypersonic applications. Because its propellant is storable, the engine can provide rapid-response capabilities. Ursa Major will also build a dedicated test stand for Draper and plans to hotfire the engine within 12 months.

The United States faces a gap in hypersonic capabilities, and Draper will help to address this, bearing storable characteristics of a solid motor but with the higher performance and maneuverability of a liquid engine. Those qualities allow it to better simulate hypersonic threats as a target vehicle. 

“Draper will become the foundation of America’s counter-hypersonic capabilities,” said Joe Laurienti, founder and CEO of Ursa Major. “Its on-demand launch capability and increased maneuverability make it an ideal hypersonic interceptor and allow it to better simulate hypersonic threats as a target vehicle.”

Applicable for both space access and hypersonic applications, the Draper engine aligns with AFRL's efforts in enhancing technical capabilities to deliver assets rapidly and effectively to “high-energy orbits" or "military-relevant orbits." Draper’s safe handling and storability lead to applications and maturation of responsive launch operations, including, point-to-point delivery, quick mission planning, on-orbit servicing, fuel depots, global range and mobility, hypersonic systems, and survivable and responsive launches. Learn more about Draper here.

About Arroway 

Arroway is a reusable liquid oxygen and methane staged combustion engine for medium and heavy launch vehicles, expected to hotfire in 2025. Introduced in August 2022, Arroway, when clustered together, will be one of very few commercially available American engines capable of supporting next-generation heavy launch. 

Ursa Major designs, tests, and manufactures its engines from its state-of-the-art facility in Berthoud, Colorado, using market-leading technology in analysis and simulation, 3D printing, and proprietary alloys. Its customers get to launch many years faster, without the development cost of building engines in-house. 

Last August, Ursa Major and AFRL announced a contract under the U.S. Air Force Tactical Funding Increase (TACFI) program to qualify the 5,000-pound thrust, oxygen-rich staged combustion “Hadley” rocket engine for future Department of Defense missions.  

About Ursa Major

Ursa Major is America's leading privately funded company focusing solely on rocket propulsion, bringing high-performance, staged combustion engines to market for space launch and hypersonic applications. Ursa Major customers, ranging from "New Space" startups to enterprise-level aerospace leaders and the U.S. government, get to flight faster, more reliably, and cost-effectively. The company employs the most sought-after engineers from top space programs and universities. Headquartered in Berthoud, Colorado, Ursa Major was named one of the best places to work by Built in Colorado three years in a row. For more information, visit www.ursamajor.com. For downloadable images and videos, visit https://www.ursamajor.com/media/downloadable-assets.

Connect with Ursa Major on LinkedIn,Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

About AFRL 

The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the United States Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com

Media Contacts

Ursa Major 

Air Force Research Laboratory 

Distribution Statement A: Approved for Public Release; Distribution is Unlimited. PA# AFRL-2023-0412.

Ursa Major will build a fourth test stand at its headquarters in Berthoud, Colorado, for the Draper engine as part of the ARFL contract.
Ursa Major will build a fourth test stand at its headquarters in Berthoud, Colorado, for the Draper engine as part of the ARFL contract.
Draper, Ursa Major’s new storable liquid engine. 
Draper, Ursa Major’s new storable liquid engine. 
Rendering of Ursa Major’s Heavy Launch “Arroway” Engine
Rendering of Ursa Major’s Heavy Launch “Arroway” Engine


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