WASHINGTON — Innovative Rocket Technologies, known as iRocket, has signed an agreement with the Air Force Research Laboratory to jointly develop and test rocket propulsion hardware. 

The New York-based startup, founded in 2018, develops rocket engines and plans to build a small launch vehicle.

iRocket signed a four-year cooperative research and development agreement, or CRADA, with AFRL’s Rocket Propulsion Division, the company said Aug. 2.

The CRADA includes use of an Air Force facility, equipment and AFRL expertise “to enable both sides to develop, build, test and transition U.S. rocket engines at a fast pace,” said Shawn Phillips, chief of AFRL’s Rocket Propulsion Division.

“iRocket will have the opportunity to further advance and demonstrate their high thrust technology,” he said. 

“AFRL is very supportive of development efforts for rapid access to space to support Air Force and Space Force needs for 100% reusable rockets,” said Phillips.

Space Force contract

iRocket in June announced it won a U.S. Space Force contract to demonstrate a reusable rocket engine for small launch vehicles. 

Under the CRADA, the company plans to conduct propulsion, stage, and potentially grasshopper testing at Test Site 1-56 at the High Thrust Research Facility, located at Edwards Air Force Base, California. 

According to AFRL, the High Thrust Rocket Research facility is one of only four stands in the United States capable of 10 million pounds of thrust. 

“iRocket’s first milestone for the CRADA is to conduct a 120-180 second engine demo, showcasing 37,000 pounds of sea level thrust, within the next 12 to 14 months,” said iRocket CEO Asad Malik.

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...