Launcher announced delivery Nov. 13 of "the world's largest 3D-printed combustion chamber." Additive Manufacturing Customized Machines of Starnberg, Germany, printed the copper alloy combustion chamber for Launcher’s E-2 rocket engine. Credit: Launcher

SAN FRANCISCO – Launcher won its first government funding when the U.S. Air Force awarded the the Brooklyn-based startup $1.5 million to accelerate development and testing of its E-2 rocket engine.

Launcher announced the Air Force funding Nov. 13. “It is extremely helpful and keeps us on track to conclude engine development by the end of next year,” Max Haot, Launcher founder and CEO, told SpaceNews.

Launcher was focused on attracting private investors and venture capital before learning last summer about Air Force Space Pitch Day, a competition in San Francisco in early November to identify and support commercial technology with potential Air Force applications. Launcher executives quickly drafted a proposal and entered the competition.

In less than five months from its initial submission, Launcher won a $1.5 million Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract. “I’m very happy with the pace,” Haot said.

Launcher’s goal is to produce “the highest performance, lowest cost small launch vehicle,” Haot said. The company’s Rocket-1, scheduled for first flight in 2024 and powered by five E-2 engines, is designed deliver 773 kilograms to low Earth orbit.

Launcher relies heavily on additive manufacturing. The company announced delivery Nov. 13 of the world’s largest 3D-printed liquid rocket engine combustion chamber for its E-2 engine. The combustion chamber is 86 centimeters tall with a 41-centimeter-diameter exit nozzle. Launcher plans to conduct its first full-scale engine test in May 2020.

Additive Manufacturing Customized Machines (AMCM) printed the copper alloy combustion chamber. Launcher and AMCM plan to display a model of the E-2 combustion chamber next week at FormNext, a 3D-printing trade show next week in Germany.

Over two days in November, the Air Force awarded $22.5 million in SBIR funding to 30 companies.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...