Good luck, Stoke Space! Startup Rocket gets John Glenn’s launch pad in the Cape News-thread


An artist’s conception shows Stoke Space’s reusable second stage, fitted with a regeneratively cooled heat shield. (Illustration of Stoke’s space)

Based in Kent, Washington enliven the space says he won the go-ahead to take over the Florida launch complex where John Glenn began the journey that made him the first American in orbit in 1962.

That is the result of the decision of the US Space Force. Tuesday to assign Space Launch Complex 14 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station to Stoke Space for use as a launch operations center.

“We are very excited about this opportunity,” Julia Black, director of launch operations at Stoke Space, said in a press release. “To be trusted to reactivate the historic Launch Complex 14 is an honor, and we look forward to building on their distinguished achievements for the United States space program.”

Space Launch Delta 45, the military wing that manages the Cape Canaveral launch facility, said the assignment is part of a new Space Force strategy to maximize the use of excess launch property and the Eastern Cordillera off the coast of Florida.

This first round of platform allocations focused on small-class launch vehicles, and Stoke Space was not the only beneficiary. Launch Complex 15, which supported the Titan missile program from 1959 to 1964, was taken over by ABL Space Systems. Phantom Space and Vaya Space will use Launch Complex 13, which played a role in early Atlas launches and, more recently, SpaceX rocket landings.

Launch Complex 14 was the site of John Glenn’s historic liftoff and the three Mercury-Atlas missions that followed. After Mercury, it was used in support of the Gemini program, but became inactive after 1966. The site’s original blockhouse was restored and converted into a conference center and occasional tourist stop in the 1990s.

Jennifer Thompson, Stoke Space’s director of marketing, said Tuesday’s announcement came as something of a surprise. “We are already talking about how to preserve this site and its historical significance while building it to support the future of space,” she told GeekWire in an email.

Stoke Space CEO Andy Lapsa said “the opportunity to revive this site is a profound responsibility held in the highest regard by all of our team.”

“As we bring LC-14 back to life and carry its legacy into the future, we’ll be sure to do so in a way that preserves its existing history and pays homage to those who came before us,” Lapsa said.

Stoke Space was founded in 2019 by Lapsa and Tom Feldman, who previously worked for Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin. His company aims to develop a fully reusable two-stage rocket, starting with the second stage.

In addition to its 21,000 square foot engineering and manufacturing headquarters in Kent, Stoke Space has a 2.3 acre rocket test facility in Moses Lake, Washington.

Rocket motor tests have been going on for now at Moses Lake. Launch Complex 14 is most likely to come into play when Stoke Space is preparing for flight tests. The schedule for those tests has not been announced, and development of a new rocket typically takes longer than anticipated. For what it’s worth, Lapsa told GeekWire in 2021 that “we’re going to blow this up late next year.”

Stoke Space’s relatively rapid rise has been fueled by a Seed funding round of $9.1 millionfollowed by a $65 million Series A funding round which was led by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures in late 2021. The company has also won research grants from POThe National Science Foundation and the US Air Force.

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