Impulse Space, the space logistics startup headed by founding SpaceX employee Tom Mueller, has closed a new tranche of funding to further develop its line of orbital transportation vehicles.
The oversubscribed $45 million Series A was led by RTX Ventures, the venture capital arm of RTX (formerly Raytheon Technologies), and included participation from existing investors Founders Fund, Lux Capital, Airbus Ventures and Space Capital. Founders Fund led Impulse’s $20 million seed round in early 2022, while Lux Capital previously supported the company with a $10 million funding deal last summer.
Mueller is understood to be one of the preeminent experts in propulsion alive today, and it’s a reputation he earned: as employee #1 at SpaceX, he led the development of the Merlin and Draco engines, which power the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft, respectively.
This latest venture, which Mueller founded in 2021, two years after his retirement from SpaceX, is also centered around propulsion. Impulse is developing a series of spacecraft which it calls “orbital maneuvering vehicles,” designed for last-mile payload delivery. That includes a vehicle called Mira, and a larger vehicle called Helios. In a statement, Impulse said this latest funding round will be used to further develop Helios, a high-energy kick stage that will be capable of bypassing geostationary transfer orbit and taking payloads directly to geostationary orbit.
For the company’s first orbital mission, called Leo Express-1, Mira will perform a series of tasks on-orbit, include last-mile payload delivery, payload hosting, low-altitude maneuvers and atmospheric re-entry. That mission is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare mission in the fourth quarter of this year. The primary customer for that mission has not been announced.
The Redondo Beach, California-based startup has announced several other missions and partnerships, all of which are considerably more ambitious. The first is an on-orbit refueling demonstration mission with partner Orbit Fab scheduled for 2025. On that mission, Mira will be the hosting platform for Orbit Fab’s fuel depot, and it will rendezvous with a U.S. Space Force satellite to attempt refueling.
Impulse was also chosen as the propulsion provider for Vast’s private station, Haven-1, which is also scheduled to launch in 2025. If all goes to plan, that will be followed by a mission to Mars (yes, Mars) with Relativity Space in 2026, for which Impulse is developing a Mars Cruise Vehicle and a lander.