Firehawk Aerospace closes $2M seed funding round to advance 3D printed rocket fuel

Firehawk Aerospace, a Florida-based rocket propulsion startup, has announced the closing of a $2M seed funding round.

Led by members of the Victorum Capital Club, with further investments from Achieve Capital and Harlow Capital Management, the funding will be used to develop the company’s advanced rocket propulsion systems, which rely heavily on 3D printed solid fuel rods.

Will Edwards, Co-Founder and CEO of Firehawk, states: “Firehawk Aerospace has achieved a new level of performance for hybrid rocket engines through our patented 3D printed rocket fuel. Firehawk Aerospace will provide a safe, reliable, and affordable rocket engine to power the next-generation of satellite launchers, guided reconnaissance systems, lunar transport systems, and manned space systems.”

Firehawk's 3D printed solid rocket fuel rods. Photo via Firehawk Aerospace.
Firehawk’s 3D printed solid rocket fuel rods. Photo via Firehawk Aerospace.

Hybrid propellant rockets

Hybrid rockets are characterized by their use of two different rocket propellant phases, that is, they rely on both a solid fuel and a fluid oxidizer. Since the two components generally don’t mix (and form an explosive cocktail) until it’s time for ignition in the chamber, hybrid rockets are a lot less prone to catastrophic failure than their conventional solid or fluid propellant counterparts, and can be shut down easily if needs be. As well as avoiding the common safety hurdles associated with single-state propellant handling, hybrid rockets also tend to be less mechanically complex than liquid-only rocket engines.

The caveat is that hybrid engines often lack in the performance department, despite having propellant densities comparable to those of bi-liquid engines. This is the issue Firehawk is trying to solve with its 3D printed fuel and proprietary engine designs, which reportedly combine the safety of hybrid systems with the capabilities of conventional liquid engines.

Safe and accessible space travel

The advanced propulsion systems developed by Firehawk are ultimately intended to enable safer and more accessible space exploration. Impressively, the company made it to the top five finalists’ podium at this year’s Startup Battlefield competition at TechCrunch Disrupt. With VC and tech firms alike believing in the vision, Firehawk will use its newly acquired capital to test its engine + fuel combination at an operational scale, all while growing its government and commercial partnerships, and expanding its manufacturing facilities to states such as Texas and Oklahoma.

James Roller, Managing Partner of Victorum Capital, concludes: “Firehawk Aerospace has developed a major advancement in rocket propulsion technology – providing a safer and more cost-effective solution than other high-performance rocket systems in use today. We are excited to partner with Firehawk as they scale their technology and reshape the aerospace industry.”

Firehawk performing a burn test on a prototype hybrid engine. Photo via Firehawk Aerospace.
Firehawk performing a burn test on a prototype hybrid engine. Photo via Firehawk Aerospace.

With ongoing technological advancements, 3D printing in the aerospace sector has grown to previously unseen adoption rates. Earlier this month, Californian 3D printed rocket manufacturer Relativity Space raised $500M in its latest round of Series D funding. The recent round took the company’s total cash raised to date to $685M, and its valuation up to a whopping $2.3B.

Elsewhere, NASA recently announced that it had developed 3D printed rocket engine components that could be used as part of the Artemis project to return astronauts to the Moon, and prepare for a future mission to Mars. The large-format parts were fabricated using an optimized DED technique, and developed as part of the Rapid Analysis and Manufacturing Propulsion Technology project (RAMPT).

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Featured image shows Firehawk’s 3D printed solid rocket fuel rods. Photo via Firehawk Aerospace.