Stoke Space Reaches Crucial Development Phase with New Booster Engine Test

By Lydia Amazouz Published on June 11, 2024 12:30
Stoke Space Reaches Crucial Development Phase With New Booster Engine Test

Stoke Space has successfully test-fired a highly efficient engine designed for the first stage of its fully reusable launch vehicle, marking a crucial step forward for the company's ambitious space endeavors.

This initial test, conducted on June 5 at a test site in Moses Lake, Washington, demonstrated the engine's capabilities, bringing Stoke Space closer to realizing its goal of developing a reusable medium-lift rocket.

Stoke Space's Engine Design and Testing

The new engine, capable of producing up to 100,000 pounds-force of thrust, employs a full-flow staged combustion design. This sophisticated approach, where both the engine’s fuel and oxidizer (liquified natural gas and liquid oxygen) go through separate preburners before entering the main combustion chamber, offers greater efficiency and a longer engine life. However, it also presents significant development challenges.

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Currently, this design is used exclusively by SpaceX’s Raptor engines on its Starship vehicle. Andy Lapsa, chief executive of Stoke Space, emphasized the necessity of this technology for rapidly reusable launch vehicles, stating, "In a world of rapid reuse, you need high performance. Full-flow stage combustion gives you the highest performance possible under the least stressing conditions."

During the two-second test, the engine achieved up to 50% of its rated thrust. The primary goal was to evaluate the engine's startup and shutdown transients, which are critical phases where most of the complexity and risk reside. "The duration of the test was short because the goal was to demonstrate the transient and then back out," Lapsa explained. This successful test sets the stage for more extensive evaluations, with a larger test stand currently under construction to facilitate longer-duration tests later this summer.

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Development of the Nova Launch Vehicle

Stoke Space is developing a fully reusable two-stage rocket named Nova. The first stage will utilize seven of the new engines, while the upper stage will feature a different engine technology, combining liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen in an actively cooled heat shield to enable powered landings. This innovative design was partially tested with a flight of a prototype “hopper” last September.

Lapsa highlighted the technological commonalities between the booster and upper stage engines, particularly in areas like turbomachinery and analysis tools, although he noted that each system is distinct and complex in its own right.

The recent engine test incorporated flight avionics and software, demonstrating the integration and readiness of these systems. The ongoing development is supported by a $100 million Series B funding round raised by the company last October. "In a lot of ways, all systems are go, and the last big question mark that I felt carrying on my shoulders was the first stage engine, and specifically getting the engine through the transients and back successfully," Lapsa said.

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Future Plans and Industry Impact

Stoke Space has set an internal goal of beginning orbital flight tests in 2025, with aspirations to accelerate this timeline if possible. The company's progress will depend significantly on the development of its launch site at Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 14, which was allocated by the Space Force last year.

While Lapsa refrained from providing an updated schedule, he expressed confidence in the rapid advancements being made. "I think that you’ll find over time, just like fully rapidly reusable rockets will render all others obsolete, I think that these high-performing engines that make that mission possible will render over time the lower performing variants also obsolete. I think it’s an essential technology mountain to climb, and I’m really excited to be on that mountain."

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The successful test of Stoke Space's new booster engine represents a crucial development phase in the progress of reusable space launch technology. As the company continues to refine and test its engines and launch vehicle components, it is poised to make substantial contributions to the commercial space industry, potentially revolutionizing how we approach space travel and exploration. The implications of such advancements extend beyond cost savings and efficiency; they promise to accelerate the pace of innovation and expand the possibilities for scientific research and commercial activities in space.


An editor specializing in astronomy and space industry, passionate about uncovering the mysteries of the universe and the technological advances that propel space exploration.

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