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Ursa Major has taken up the challenge of trying to convince launch startups to outsource their engines rather than follow the models of SpaceX and Blue Origin. “The first gut response is ‘our engines are special and we don’t have a company without our engines,’ but if there is a way to increase their margin by flying someone else’s engines, most companies will be interested in coming around,” Ursa Major founder and CEO Joe Laurienti says.
Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit and Vector Space Systems — three frontrunners fielding dedicated smallsat launchers — are building engines in house. Currently, just two launch startups — Generation Orbit and ABL Space Systems — have gone public with plans to depend on Laurienti’s 26-person team in Berthoud, Colorado, to supply the engines for the satellite launchers they’re developing.
That we now have companies that have successfully raised investment capital for both building rocket engines in-house for their own rockets as well buying them from independent subcontractors is firm proof that the upcoming boom in smallsat rockets is real, and very robust. The 20s should be a very exciting decade for rocketry.