The three company Co-Founders first met in 2015 while at the University of Cambridge.
As part of the rocketry group out of the Engineering Department, the team helped design, build and launch a major sounding rocket from the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA.
The flight vehicle measured 3.12m in length and reached a maximum velocity just below Mach 3.
Building upon the previous launch, and now leading the Cambridge group, the team were able to help develop a more complex multi-stage vehicle which launched during a return visit to the US desert in September 2017.
The vehicle utilised a fully custom airframe and bespoke flight avionics, but used a commercial-off-the-shelf propulsion solution.
The purchased propulsion system suffered a catastrophic failure shortly after takeoff .
Inspired by the failure of a commercial-off-the-shelf rocket motor, the team set out to do better. Having experienced firsthand the unreliability of existing chemical propulsion systems the team narrowed research focus onto propulsion to develop systems that could be more reliable and lower cost.
As part of the Cambridge group, a hot-fire test of the custom 3.5kN engine was conducted.
In 2019 Protolaunch Ltd was formally established to commercialise the technology under development by the founding team.
A bottom-up approach to propulsion design targetting high reliability and reduced manufacturing complexity; all designed specifically for the launch of small payloads from the outset.
Protolaunch joined the Wescott Business Incubation Centre in May and moved into our new office space fulltime.
In August, Protolaunch started a major project with Southampton Univerisity to collaboratively develop a 10kN hardware technology demonstrator to experimentally test our new thermodynamic cycle.
As the company established itself within UK propulsion, we collected a host of awards including:
- Soapbox Pitch Award, UK Space Conference 2019
- SGAC Award, NewSpace Europe Conference Luxembourg 2019
- Ideas Take Flight, Cambridge University Entrepreneurs
- Launchpad Finalist, Royal Academy of Engineering
Protolaunch secured our first contract with the European Space Agency in March to develop our propulsion technology.
With multiple projects underway, covering the full breadth of propulsion hardware, thermodynamic simulation, and electronic control systems, the company was able to grow.
Protolaunch joined the ESA Business Incubation Centre in Harwell in July and the company CEO was awarded an 1851 Royal Commission Enterprise Fellowship with the Royal Academy of Engineering.
The global small satellite launch market is estimated to be worth $115.9 Billion from 2021-2030, $5.5 Billion of which is being targetted by UK spaceports. More than 70% of payloads are forecast to be in the <250kg weight class.
A new class of launch vehicle is on the horizon, with dedicated launchers set to replace historic rideshare. The key enabler for a viable microlauncher is the right propulsion system.
With a hot-fire test-campaign scheduled to conclude as we move into 2021, Protolaunch is ready to work with strategic aerospace partners to qualify, bespoke and deploy our propulsion systems into small launch applications.