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iRocket Wins AFWERX Funding for Reusable Rocket Engine Development 

By Rachel Jewett | June 30, 2023
      iRocket engine test with thrust augmentation. Photo: iRocket

      iRocket engine test with thrust augmentation. Photo: iRocket

      The U.S. Space Force has awarded iRocket $1.8 million in further funding on a Phase II SBIR contract to develop its reusable rocket engine. iRocket — Innovative Rocket Technologies Inc. — is developing the Shockwave launch vehicle for frequent reuse. 

      The award is funded through AFWERX, the innovation arm of the Department of the Air Force. It is a Tactical Funding Increase (TACFI) continuing from a July 2020 Phase II SBIR contract. Under that contract, iRocket demonstrated three operation modes of its booster engine: augmented, unaugmented, and landing mode. The company says this engine enables the Shockwave launch vehicle to land both the first and second stages, including the fairing, and is designed for immediate reuse. 

      With the new contract, iRocket will perform a full-duration static fire test for 120-180 seconds to demonstrate its 35,000 lbs. thrust reusable engine that runs on a combination of liquid oxygen (LOX) and methane fuel.

      “We believe this contract extension is a clear endorsement of the value our technology brings to national security missions,” said Asad Malik, founder and CEO of iRocket. “The AFWERX mission is to help the Space Force benefit from innovation coming out of private sector companies such as iRocket. Our launcher meets the need for lower launch cost and increased operational tempo in delivering assets to orbit.” 

      The company plans to launch its first vehicle in late 2027.