The private sector is becoming increasingly competitive in the race to the moon, Mars, and beyond. But as efforts to cut carbon emissions and promote alternative fuels gain steam, some people are looking for ways to make the space race more environmentally friendly. The likes of SpaceX are already launching reusable rockets that can be brought back to Earth, but a Seattle-based startup has bigger plans.
Stoke Space is making a rocket that can be used over and over again and is powered by renewable resources. This rocket will be able to put satellites in Earth’s orbit without hurting the environment. It was founded and is led by a former employee of Jeff Bezos’s space venture, Blue Origin.
To launch satellites into orbit, Stoke Space must first complete the initial stages of rocket testing. It has yet to overcome not only technological but also regulatory and financial obstacles. It has big goals, though, and one of them is to send out more satellites to deal with climate change.
“As we build this critical in-space economy and infrastructure, we have to be thinking ahead about how to do that sustainably and scalably,” said Andy Lapsa, CEO of Stoke Space.
The rocket is constructed to be launched into space and brought back to Earth, with both the first and second stages being immediately and completely reusable.
Lapsa elaborated, saying, “You don’t have to rebuild the rocket for every mission, so that gets you out of a production-limited paradigm and into an operations-limited paradigm, it’s very important.”
Lapsa claims that the industry is currently experiencing a “bottleneck” as a result of the rising demand for satellites.
“There is a lot of pent-up demand, especially as you project out into the middle and end of this decade that the launch industry is just not positioned to satisfy yet or meet,” he said.
Christian Garcia, partner and managing director at Breakthrough Energy Ventures, said, “As we think about all the manner of things that you can do from space, for the benefit of earth, for the benefit of climate, you have to start from launch, and you have to start from ultra-low cost, sustainable, reusable launch.”
Moreover, Garcia distinguishes Stoke from its rivals by pointing out that, unlike them, it is concerned with solving climate problems on Earth rather than sending people to the moon or Mars.
We have thought for a long time that space technology could help us cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Many years ago, we first began to consider how to better deploy satellites that specifically monitor climate change. How can we tell if there are leaks of methane, which are a major cause of global warming? Exactly how can we keep tabs on blazes in the wild in real time? He asked, “How do we protect our natural resources, like forests and oceans, which help our ecosystem by absorbing carbon?”
The list of investors includes Breakthrough Energy as well as Spark Capital, Toyota Ventures, Point72 Ventures, MaC Venture Capital, and NFX Ventures. In total, it has collected $100 million.