Sea-based Startup Receives $2.5 Million in Funding Pentagon Agreement

Sea-based Startup Receives $2.5 Million in Funding Pentagon Agreement

The Defense Innovation Unit, a Pentagon agency that spies out commercial technology, awarded a $2.5 million contract to The Spaceport Company, a startup developing transportable sea-based rocket launch pads.

The building of a prototype ocean-going launch complex based on a converted Navy torpedo recovery vessel would be aided by the grant, which was announced on May 28. It’s a component of the recently launched DIU initiative Novel Responsive Space Delivery, which aims to strengthen American access to space.

Sea-based launch is seen by the military as one way to lessen congestion and vulnerability at conventional spaceports. An ocean platform might give users the freedom to choose the best launch sites while avoiding congested regions and inclement weather.

CEO Tom Marotta told SpaceNews that for The Spaceport Company, which was established in 2022, it’s a significant turning point on an ambitious path.

The company received $1.5 million from the National Security Innovation Capital, a different DIU program, last year. The contract supported the idea of turning offshore oil rigs into floating launch pads by implementing the “Liftboat” concept.

The new contract is for a more immediate project to turn a decommissioned U.S. Navy torpedo recovery craft into a usable launchpad, not for Liftboat. According to Marotta, this makes use of a widely available platform for quicker development.

Later this year is when the next test launch is scheduled

The 180-foot boat was acquired by the business in February, and it is currently undergoing renovations at a shipyard in Mississippi in order to use it as a launch platform for tests later this year. According to Marotta, the ship’s spacious deck, capacity to go deeper in the water, and increased mobility made it a desirable choice for a launch pad.

Though intriguing, there are significant technological obstacles and uncertainties regarding the viability of sea-launched rockets. A decade ago, a prior attempt named Sea Launch failed.

According to Marotta, the concept’s prospects can be improved by improved technology, a more cutthroat launch market, and rekindled military interest.

According to him, the primary goals of the initial missions will be to launch scientific research payloads and sounding rockets for hypersonic weapon tests. However, building a sea-based platform for the launching of tiny orbital rockets is the ultimate objective.

Austin Baker, DIU’s deputy portfolio director for space, underlined the sea-based platform’s strategic significance. According to a DIU announcement, he highlighted the project’s potential to handle logistical issues and contested launch locations, saying that “the ability to rapidly respond to space-based needs is critical.”