Colorado-based aerospace start-up leverages new capital to increase production and development of liquid propulsion rocket engines for launch and hypersonic applications
BERTHOUD, Colo.—Dec. 7, 2021—Next Generation propulsion company Ursa Major announced $85 million in Series C funding today. The series was led by funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, and includes investors like XN and Explorer 1, as well as existing insiders Alsop Louie Partners, Alpha Edison, Dolby Family Ventures, Space Capital, and Harpoon Ventures.
"At Ursa Major, our mission is to build the best rocket engines on and off the planet," said Ursa Major CEO and Founder Joe Laurienti. "Not only does this allow our engineers to do what they do best, but our assessment of the market supports our focus. We believe that propulsion is a specialty, and propulsion's horizontal is larger than any vertical it feeds into. A recent trend of consolidation and space companies seeking new verticals demonstrates the need for a horizontal market view. To advance this industry and make space travel a more everyday endeavor, we need the technical advancements provided only by specialization."
The additional investment will allow Ursa Major to dedicate a new level of capital to rapidly accelerate the production of its current rocket engine programs to produce one engine per week by the end of 2022, meeting the unprecedented demand for their Ripley and Hadley engines. In addition, this capital enables Ursa Major to begin the development of additional next-generation engines.
"We anticipate an accelerated expansion of the space economy over the next decade, which should in turn drive demand for efficient and reliable propulsion technologies," says William Abecassis, Head of Innovation Capital at BlackRock. "Through a single focus that concentrates talent and capital, Ursa Major is ideally positioned to out-engineer the competition and become the leading engine manufacturer in the world."
This fundraise represents a landmark in a year already packed with steep growth at Ursa Major. That growth trajectory includes deploying a more reliable, higher-performing variant of their Hadley engine; a focus on supporting higher production rates; launches that carry more rigorous requirements; doubling revenue; and a new threshold of technical capability. This has helped earn Ursa Major new partnerships with commercial launch providers such as Stratolaunch, Phantom Space, Generation Orbit, and defense prime contractors, as well as new contracts from the U.S. Air Force and the Defense Manufacturing Institutes.
"The demand we're seeing for Ursa Major is indicative of a deep need in the aerospace industry," said Dr. Will Roper, the former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics who serves on Ursa Major's board of directors. "The consolidation and vertical integration that we see is concerning in that it limits innovation that would improve existing propulsion technology. Propulsion is extremely challenging, and by only doing 'good enough,' the industry runs the risk of stagnation in an area that needs drastic improvement to meet both commercial and defense needs. Ursa Major is positioned perfectly to address that need."
Ursa Major focuses only on propulsion, with a business model more akin to software companies than launch providers. By utilizing 3D printing and onsite test facilities to rapidly cycle through the building, testing, and production of rocket engines, Ursa Major is able to deliver a continuously improving product to its customers. This revolutionary approach ensures that Ursa Major will be a significant player in the space industry.
Ursa Major's propulsion-only approach disrupts the existing vertically integrated launch industry by providing vehicle-agnostic engines for a variety of launch and hypersonic applications. This approach stands as a safeguard against the kind of consolidation and stagnation in launch technology that kept America dependent on Russian-made Khrushchev-era rocket engines in the past and has led to the outsourcing of critical rocket technology to overseas partners.
About Ursa Major:
Ursa Major is America's only pure-play rocket propulsion company, leading the charge in the new space race by developing the highest performing, lowest cost, and most reliable engines for launch and hypersonic applications. With over 125 employees headquartered in Lafayette and Berthoud, Colorado, Ursa Major was named one of the top 100 places to work in Colorado in 2021 by Built In Colorado.