WASHINGTON — Small launch vehicle developer Launcher has raised $11.7 million in a Series A funding round, which the company says puts it on a path to reaching orbit with a fraction of the total investment of other launch startups.
Launcher said June 2 that the Series A round was co-led by Boost.VC and the company’s founder, Max Haot, both of whom earlier provided seed funding to the startup. Haot invested $5 million using proceeds of a camera company, Mevo.com, that he sold earlier this year to Logitech. Other existing and new investors also participated in the round, which Haot told SpaceNews was oversubscribed.
Launcher, founded in New York in 2017, moved to Southern California earlier this year. “The supply chain is here, the talent is here and many of our customers are here, including the Space Force,” Haot said in an earlier interview about the move. The company currently has about 30 employees, split between California and a subsidiary in Ukraine.
Haot said that the Series A round will fund the “growth acceleration” of the team and the new California factory. The company expects to grow to about 70 people by the end of the year.
Launcher is working on a small launch vehicle called Launcher Light, intended to be similar in performance to Rocket Lab’s Electron, which can place up to 300 kilograms into low Earth orbit. Launcher Light is a smaller version of Rocket-1, the company’s original vehicle, which Haot said in March should speed up development since it will require fewer engines.
The company is already planning a Series B round. Haot said the company is seeking to raise $40 million in that round, closing it by early next year. That would support the company through four test flights of Launcher Light starting in 2024. “We believe that will allow us to reach orbit on of these flights,” he said.
If successful, Launcher would reach orbit for a fraction of the cost of other launch vehicle startups. Rocket Lab, for example, spent about $100 million to reach orbit with its Electron rocket, while Virgin Orbit reportedly spent far more developing its LauncherOne.
Haot said he believes that is possible based on the company’s past frugality: it has spent $6 million to date, including a $1.5 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award from the Space Force, that has supported work on engine development and testing. “This level of relative capital efficiency is something we are proud of and provides some evidence of our ability to reach our goal of $50 million total investment to orbit,” he said.
Haot added that his company does not intend to stop with Launcher Light. “A small launcher is a steppingstone to larger engines and vehicles in our road map,” he said, “not the end game.”