WASHINGTON — The Spaceport Company, a startup developing floating launch pads for space rockets, is one of 17 companies selected to receive government funding this year under the National Security Innovation Capital program.

The NSIC program, run by the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit, allocated $35 million in 2023 funding to 17 early-stage companies from different sectors of the tech industry, DIU said June 28.

NSIC was established by Congress in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. The program was created in response to concerns that U.S. startups developing technologies with national security applications were having trouble securing capital from trusted U.S. sources — and were turning to foreign investors, risking the loss of their intellectual property to potential adversaries. 

“The lack of trusted capital delays the product development of U.S.-developed technologies, and leaves openings for capital from our adversaries to gain access,” DIU said in a news release. 

Sea-based space launch

The Spaceport Company recently conducted a prototype demonstration of a sea-based launch platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The NSIC funding is for the “design and development of its first full platform for sea-based rocket launches,” DIU said.

DoD views mobile launch pads that operate at sea as “one solution to the increasing congestion at major launch sites.”

The Spaceport Company’s mobile solution, said DIU, “has the potential to enable more launches in more locations without incurring environmental risks to people or shore-based assets. NSIC funding will enable the company to build a full prototype and its first operational system.”

The NSIC program has provided funding for several space industry ventures. In 2021 it awarded $2 million to Xplore, a startup focused on space infrastructure services. Earlier this year, the satellite-servicing startup Starfish Space received $3 million in NSIC funds, and the Earth observation startup Nuview got $2.75 million.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...