Former SpaceX Employee Transitions from Rocket Engineering to In-Space Propulsion with Success – Ars Technica

A close-up view of the Mira orbiting vehicle.
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A close-up view of the Mira orbiting vehicle.

Impulse Space

SpaceX successfully launched its ninth “Transporter” mission, delivering numerous small- and medium-sized satellites into low-Earth orbit from California on Saturday.

The advantage for customers in these launches is the consistent, cost-effective access to space using the reliable Falcon 9 rocket. However, the downside is that all the satellites are released into a standard orbit, requiring additional propulsion for them to reach different altitudes or inclinations.

The emergence of “last mile” services from various companies provides small add-on spacecraft capable of in-space propulsion. One of the most notable is Impulse Space, founded two years ago by former SpaceX founding employee, Tom Mueller.

Impulse Space reached a significant milestone with the test flight of its first vehicle, the Mira spacecraft, aboard a Falcon 9 rocket during Saturday’s launch. The spacecraft successfully completed its “LEO Express 1” mission, indicating a promising start for the endeavor.

Exploring New Horizons in Space

Impulse Space, led by Mueller, is an exciting venture following his time at SpaceX where he focused on technical leadership. The Mira spacecraft, measuring about the size of a dishwasher and weighing 650 pounds fully loaded, is designed to maximize its delta-V capability with remarkable Saiph thrusters achieving a specific impulse (ISP) of 290.

While SpaceX revolutionized space startups’ orbit access with affordable and dependable launches, Impulse Space aims to take customers to the next level by offering access to higher energy orbits and enabling travel to other bodies in the inner Solar System.

Setting Sights on Mars

Mira already has customers such as Orbit Fab and plans to fly on SpaceX’s Transporter-11 and -12 missions next year. As Mira demonstrates its capabilities, many more customers are expected to sign up for the service.

Impulse Space has continued to secure financial support, announcing a Series A funding of $45 million from RTX Ventures amid a challenging fundraising environment. The company is also developing a more powerful thruster, Rigel, for a Mars lander and orbiter vehicle, with plans for a robotic Mars mission in 2026.

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