By Micah Maideberg


Propulsion start-up Ursa Major Technologies Inc. said it is developing an engine meant to power larger rockets, betting the hardware will find a customer base amid a shifting market for such hardware.

Ursa said Thursday it expects to begin so-called hot-fire tests of the engine, called Arroway, next year and start deliveries in 2025. The company has also been working on two smaller engines.

The propulsion market was shaken up earlier this year when Russian officials said they would halt sales of two Russian engines to American companies. United Launch Alliance, owned by Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., uses the Russian-made RD-180 on its Atlas V vehicle, while Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Antares rocket relies on the RD-181 engine for National Aeronautics and Space Administration cargo missions.

United Launch has said it has enough Russian engines for current customers. Northrop executives have said the company has enough of the hardware in hand to fulfill its NASA cargo contract.

Ursa Major said the Arroway engines, when clustered together on a booster, would be able to replace both types of Russian motors. In a statement, the company didn't disclose any customers for the forthcoming engine, but said it was expected to serve markets tied to commercial-satellite launches and national security, among others.

Other space companies are also developing engines to sell to outside customers.

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin LLC has been working on its BE-4 motors to blast the first stage of a forthcoming United Launch vehicle called Vulcan Centaur into orbit, and also plans to use those engines on its own New Glenn rocket. Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. has also developed engines for larger vehicles.

Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp., by contrast, is among the launchers that build rocket engines in house.

Founded in 2015, privately held Ursa Major said in December it raised $85 million in fresh funding. The company has said it is solely focused on developing and selling rocket propulsion systems.

"Propulsion is really the barrier to entry," Chief Executive Joe Laurienti, a former SpaceX and Blue Origin engineer, said in an interview earlier this spring.


Write to Micah Maidenberg at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 02, 2022 11:24 ET (15:24 GMT)

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