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iRocket Signs Development Agreement with AFRL to Use High Thrust Facility 

By Rachel Jewett | August 2, 2023

      iRocket has exclusive use of the High Thrust Research Facility at Edwards Air Force Base which can test up to 10 million pounds of thrust. Photo: courtesy of the AFRL

      Rocket developer iRocket has signed a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with the Air Force Research Laboratory to develop engines and stage technology for the company’s fully reusable Shockwave launch vehicle.  

      The agreement announced Wednesday means that iRocket will have access to a key AFRL facility, Test Site 1-56, the high thrust research facility, located at Edwards Air Force Base in California. It is one of only four stands in the United States capable of 10 million pounds of thrust. iRocket will be conducting propulsion, stage, and potentially grasshopper testing at the site to test its reusable landing engine technology, which uses liquid oxygen and liquid methane as propellants. 

      The Air Force is also providing additional resources to support iRocket, including subject matter expert support, test setup components, and site facility support. Earlier this summer, iRocket received $1.8 million on a Phase II SBIR contract from AFWERX, the innovation arm of the Department of the Air Force, to develop the Shockwave vehicle. AFRL said this is in line with its mission to support rapid access to space and reusable rockets. 

      “What we are building will make today’s launch vehicles look like the Model T and will make space 100 times more accessible,” iRocket CEO Asad Malik said in a statement to Via Satellite. The world does not need a few big rockets. It needs thousands of small reusable rockets that are available immediately when a payload needs to launch.”