- Laurence Russell
Phantom Space Corp. places order for more than 200 Ursa Major rocket engines
Phantom Space Corporation, a space applications company, has announced an agreement to purchase more than 200 rocket engines from Ursa Major, America's only independent pure-play rocket propulsion company. The order includes Ursa Major's 5,000-Pound Thrust Hadley engines and the new 50,000-pound thrust Ripley engines. By using Ursa Major’s Hadley engines, Phantom’s Daytona rocket is slated for orbital launch in 2023, just three years after Phantom Space was formed.
Under the terms of the agreement, Ursa Major will supply hundreds of its Hadley engines in different configurations including ground test and upper-stage vacuum variants, as well as numerous Ripley engines for planned upgrades to the Daytona vehicle.
"Phantom’s strategy leverages a mature U.S.-only supply chain to deliver the lowest cost US built small launch vehicle on the market,” said Jim Cantrell, CEO of Phantom Space. “Ursa Major is a core component of this strategy with flight-ready, reliable, high-performance engines that are configurable for not only our workhorse Daytona and Laguna launch vehicles but also a family of enhanced future launch configurations. Ursa Major’s combination of affordability and a ‘get it done’ attitude has made them a complete pleasure to work with.”
Phantom’s agreement with Ursa Major is emblematic of a new way to access space quickly, affordably, and reliably. It breaks from the long-established process of either purchasing Russian or Ukrainian engines that are no longer available or building engines in-house at great expense and program risk. With this deal, Phantom and Ursa Major will add critical launch capacity to the market at a time when several record-sized orders for launch vehicles have appropriated available launch capacity over the next decade.
"Together, Ursa Major and Phantom Space are proving to satellite operators, government partners, and the rest of the industry that they’re no longer stymied by outdated, and now unavailable, rocket engines,” said Joe Laurienti, founder and CEO of Ursa Major. “We invite the U.S. space industry to reimagine their programs with the revolutionary assumption that they have virtually on-demand access to domestically made, high-performing, affordable, and reliable propulsion.”
Phantom will use the 5,000-lbf Hadley and the 50,000-lbf Ripley in launch configurations optimized for cost, performance, time-to-market, and reliability. The first iteration of Daytona will have nine Hadley engines for its first stage and a single Hadley for its upper stage. An upgraded Daytona will debut in 2024 using a single Ripley engine on the first stage with a Hadley engine for the upper stage. The larger Laguna rocket, set for 2025, will be powered by a combination of Ripley and Hadley engines to increase the mass performance of the vehicle.
Ursa Major designs, tests, and manufactures its engines from its state-of-the-art facility in Berthoud, Colorado, using market-leading technology in computer-aided design, 3D printing, and proprietary alloys. To date, Ursa Major engines have accumulated more than 35,000 seconds of run-time, more than a typical engine is tested prior to first flight.
Phantom's current two-stage Daytona launch vehicle transports satellites up to 450 kg in mass into Earth’s orbit and is powered exclusively by Ursa Major engines. Phantom has already taken delivery of its first batch of Ursa Major Hadley engines, and this summer, Phantom will integrate them with Daytona for a hot-fire test at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Both Phantom and Ursa Major are part of the “New Space” cohort of companies that are changing the fundamental approach of how we access space both in terms of technology as well as their specialized business models.
Phantom is developing new satellite launch capabilities at a fraction of the cost of larger providers by leveraging existing supply chains and mass-production technology. While the company’s initial focus is providing small-launch transportation for customers’ satellites, it also designs and builds satellites and satellite constellations to customers’ specifications using its own proprietary satellite designs. Phantom is also developing “Phantom Cloud,” a data backhaul network for orbiting satellites to transmit satellite imaging and other data to the Earth in near real-time. Phantom is also designing, building, and launching a 72-satellite constellation to support various Internet of Things (IoT) applications for Ingenu Inc. Phantom was selected by NASA to provide launch services to the agency’s Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) missions.
Ursa Major focuses solely on propulsion to lower the cost and risks of the most expensive, time-consuming, and risky aspect of space launch. The company houses its engineering, manufacturing, and testing functions at the same 90-acre facility, resulting in higher-performing engines produced quickly and at a lower cost. Unlike other propulsion systems, Ursa Major engines can be used on multiple vehicles and for various use cases, creating efficiencies that help customers get to launch three times faster without relying on foreign-made technology or incurring the high cost of building engines in-house.