WASHINGTON — The small launch sector is crowded, and getting more so. But Will Roper believes there is still room in the market for suppliers of rocket engines that innovate fast and adapt to changing demands.
Roper, former assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics for the U.S. Air Force, is now an advisor to Ursa Major Technologies, a Colorado-based startup that makes liquid engines for small rockets and is looking to move into the medium-vehicle market.
The company’s business model is based on the idea that while many launch providers make their own propulsion systems, others will choose outsourcing so they don’t have to invest money and time on risky engine development.
“If a propulsion company has a leg up in terms of price or reliability, it’s too much of a capital expenditure for a launch company or an integration company a vertically integrated company to try to go compete against that,” Roper told SpaceNews.
Digital engineering and additive manufacturing technologies like those used to build Formula 1 racing cars “are helping the propulsion industry do things faster than ever,” said Roper. “The same paradigm that has made Formula 1 a digitally based sport, we will see ...