We’re joined today by Joe Laurienti, CEO of Ursa Major, a Colorado upstart building high-performing rocket engines for space launch and hypersonics vehicles. Joe shares a space scoop with us about a new deal that Ursa has struck with a secretive, thought-to-be-dead rocket developer; and also gives us the full rundown on Ursa Major. Today’s episode is brought to you by Kepler Communications, a company bringing the internet to space.
Joe Laurienti is the CEO and cofounder of Ursa Major, a company that builds and sells propulsion products for A) launch, B) hypersonics, and C) in-space transportation.
Joe cut his teeth at SpaceX and Blue Origin before setting out on his own and starting Ursa Major in 2015. The Colorado company raised $85M in December 2021 and started ramping engine production last year. It has two bigger, badder beasts in the works: Ripley, Hadley’s bigger sister, is 10X more powerful. Arroway, which is further out, is a 200,000-pound thrust, liquid oxygen and methane staged combustion engine.
On today’s show, Joe and Ryan talk about the startup’s primary products; its origin story; and how big of a market Ursa Major believes it’s going after.
Today’s episode is brought to you by Kepler Communications, a company bringing the internet to space.
• Sneak peek •
Joe joins Pathfinder with a surprise, and a space scoop: Ursa Major has struck a deal to supply Vector Launch with “several” propulsion systems, he tells Pathfinder. Ursa’s Hadley engines will power the main stage of the Vector-R launch vehicle in future demonstration missions. Vector is a seven-year-old startup that’s raised more than $180M to date but had to declare bankruptcy in 2020. The thought-to-be-dead rocket developer is in fact not dead, and last October, tweeted a photo of its Vector-R, with strong “rumors of my demise were greatly exaggerated” vibes.
• Chapters •
- 00:00:00 Intro and Ad
- 00:02:02 Guest Intro
- 00:03:30 What were you working on at SpaceX and Blue Origin?
- 00:04:53 USC Rocket Propulsion Lab
- 00:06:13 Origin story into entrepreneurship
- 00:09:41 Story of the name Ursa Major
- 00:11:36 Space SEO + skincare products
- 00:12:12 How have your numbers changed in a year in terms of production?
- 00:14:03 Hadley, Ripley, and Arroway
- 00:15:00 Your engines, how they fit together, and their capabilities
- 00:19:25 First methane fuled rocket?
- 00:20:40 Technology stacks/methods driving your production
- 00:23:51 Reason for existence
- 00:30:05 Vector and Vector-R annoucnement
- 00:32:15 Your contribution to the partnership
- 00:33:52 How did the partnership start and where do you see it going?
- 00:35:34 Commercial partnership with Phantom
- 00:37:16 Other partners
- 00:38:37 Recruitment from the big 2 and other recruiting targets
- 00:42:24 Raising funds vs revenue generation
- 00:44:22 Max Q: What reasons are there to be bullish on small launch?
- 00:45:49 How many launch companies can have viable business models?
- 00:47:25 how do you view the Aerojet Rocketdyne acquisition and what does it mean for Ursa? Is $4.7B a ceiling for a company building engines? How do you see Ursa becoming more valuable?
- 00:49:18 Rapid fire q