WASHINGTON — Ursa Major, a Colorado-based manufacturer of liquid engines for small space launchers and hypersonic vehicles, announced Dec. 7 it has closed an $85 million Series C fundraising round.

The company said the new funding will help accelerate production to meet current demand and begin the development of its next-generation engines.

The series was led by the investment management firm BlackRock, and includes the XN hedge fund, Alsop Louie, Alpha Edison, Dolby Family Ventures, KCK, Space Capital, Explorer 1, Harpoon Ventures and others.

Ursa Major’s engines have yet to be launched to orbit. The company said in a news release it has more than 50 engines in back orders and has received several research-and-development contracts from commercial customers and the U.S. government through 2022. Its customers include Stratolaunch, Phantom Space, Generation Orbit, defense prime contractors, the U.S. Air Force and the Defense Manufacturing Institutes.

For the small launcher vehicle market, Ursa Major makes a 5,000-pound thrust liquid oxygen and kerosene engine named Hadley and a 50,000 pound-thrust version named Ripley. The company’s business model is based on using 3D printing and onsite test facilities to speed up the production cycle.

“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,” said William Abecassis, head of innovation capital at BlackRock.

Former U.S. Air Force procurement executive Will Roper, who serves on Ursa Major’s board of directors, said the space industry needs innovative engine designs and manufacturing techniques. “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.”

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...