WASHINGTON —  Rocket propulsion startup Ursa Major announced Nov. 30 it has raised $138 million in Series D and D-1 funding rounds.

Investors include Explorer 1 Fund and Eclipse, RTX Ventures, funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, Exor Ventures, Mack & Co., XN and other institutional shareholders. 

Based in Berthoud, Colorado, Ursa Major manufactures liquid engines for small space launchers and hypersonic vehicles, and recently announced plans to expand into solid rocket motors. 

An initial Series D round was completed earlier this year. But Ursa Major said it extended fundraising to include a Series D-1 round “due to strong interest in accelerating development on several future programs.”

Investing in solid rocket motors

The company wants to invest in its new solid rocket motor program, “while scaling production capacity and advancing multiple propulsion programs,” Ursa Major CEO and founder Joe Laurienti said in a news release. “This investment will support scaling our production capacity to meet strong market demand, as well as continued technology innovation for our medium- and heavy-weight propulsion systems.”

Ursa Major said it has redesigned and hot-fired the 50,000-pound-thrust Ripley engine, scaled production of the 5,000-pound-thrust Hadley engine to a rate of one per week, and qualified Hadley for space launch, in-space, and hypersonic missions.

“Ursa Major propulsion systems fill a critical gap in the defense industrial base today,” said Greg Reichow, partner at Eclipse and former vice president of production at Tesla. 

The company over the past year has won U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory contracts to support the development of two of the company’s rocket engines.

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...