Ukrainian rocket startup Promin Aerospace raises $500k

Recently established Promin Aerospace startup, designing an ultra-lightweight launch vehicle, has raised $500,000 from QPDigital. The project aims to create the smallest solid-propellant rocket able to carry a payload to orbit. According to the fund’s press office, the first commercial launch is due at the end of 2022.

The startup’s CEO and co-founder, Misha Rudominski, has been working on the hardware project nect, which develops a 4G modem, since 2018. Last May, he managed to raise $357,000 on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. According to the news that nect shares with backers, as of June 1, the first batch of modems had already been produced but had not yet been delivered.

When asked by the AIN.UA journalist when work on the project began, the co-founder refused to answer. According to information available at Misha’s LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, Promin Aerospace (before known as Zaarbird) has started its operation not earlier than January 2021. The fund states that the innovative approach of Promin Aerospace is in “burning the solid propellant rod that serves as the rocket body itself.” This will decrease the weight of the launch vehicle and increase the amount of payload launched to orbit.

Schematic diagram of the rocket engine

The idea of a “self-burning launch vehicle” has been developed before. Mprover, it has been partially done in Ukraine. In 2018, BBC reported that a joint team from the University of Glasgow and Oles Honchar Dnipro National University had developed a launch vehicle with a similar working model. At that time, the propulsion system was being tested at the Ukrainian lab. It was successfully creating thrust. When asked if the new startup was developing based on the technologies described in the BBC story, the Promin co-founder replied that he “can’t comment on anything yet.”

According to the specifications from the press release, the rocket’s weight ranges from 220 lb to 1,100 lb. The company plans to create “the smallest orbital rocket in the history of humankind.” Now, this title is held by the Japanese rocket SS-520-5 with a weight of 5,730 lb capable of launching up to 8.8 lb.

QPDigital’s press office does not indicate an estimated payload of Promin Aerospace’s rocket. Nonetheless, they promise “the costs of suborbital and orbital launch would not exceed $200,000.” This is more than ten times cheaper than the launch of the Astra rocket: the American project that plans to deliver up to 330 lb payload for $2.5 million. That team started its development in 2016, attracted a $130 million investment, and had almost reached orbit in December 2020.

Currently, work on Promin Aerospace “is at the stage of engine testing,” Misha Rudominski said. The investment fund’s press release reads that “an in-house team of engineers is working on the development, using experts from the main technical universities in Ukraine.” When asked about the number of people in the team and who they are, the CEO of the startup promised to tell about them in a press release in a few weeks.

According to the LinkedIn page, Promin Aerospace has two employees, co-founder Misha Rudominski and a business development manager. Even taking into account the Ukrainian and Scottish universities’ expertise, it is still not clear how feasible and economically viable the proposed rocket model is.