WASHINGTON — Innovative Rocket Technologies, known as iRocket, won a U.S. Space Force contract to demonstrate a reusable rocket engine for small launch vehicles. 

The $1.8 million agreement with the U.S. Space Systems Command is a Tactical Funding Increase, or TACFI, where the government and private investors split the cost 50/50.

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

The 18-month TACFI contract, announced June 28, was awarded by AFWERX, a U.S. Air Force technology accelerator.

“Under the contract, iRocket will further develop our highly reusable rocket engine,” said Asad Malik, founder and CEO.

As part of the agreement, the company has to perform a full-duration static fire test for 120-180 seconds to demonstrate its engine, designed to produce 35,000-pounds of thrust, running on a combination of liquid oxygen (LOX) and methane fuel.  

Mockup of iRocket’s launch vehicle. Credit: iRocket

The TACFI award follows a $1.5 million Small Business Innovation Research Phase 2 contract awarded in 2020.

“iRocket has a proprietary afterburning rocket engine that will be key in building a reusable small launch vehicle to lift 300 to 1,500 kilograms to orbit,” according to AFWERX.

Malik said the company designed a 125-feet tall launch vehicle, called Shockwave, projected to launch in about five years. 

iRocket in 2022 closed a seed funding round led by Village Global, an early stage venture capital firm. Among its commercial customers is the space situational awareness startup Turion Space.

The former commander of U.S. Transportation Command, retired Gen. Stephen Lyons, serves on iRocket’s board of directors.

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...