Stoke Space has received multiple investments from In-Q-Tel, a strategic investor in the US intelligence and defense community. Stoke Space and In-Q-Tel have not previously publicly disclosed their relationship. While In-Q-Tel is legally a separate entity from any government agency, it receives all of its funding from government partners, including the defense and intelligence community.
In-Q-Tel Principal William Morrison confirmed that he led the most recent investment, which closed at the end of February. And he also confirmed that the firm had previously made multiple investments in the company. In addition to the investment, the two organizations also signed a “technology development agreement,” an In-Q-Tel spokesperson said. Stoke joins a very small roster of launch companies that have received investments from the firm, including Rocket Lab and ABL Space Systems.
Morrison said, “The team was incredible in execution. It was capital efficient.” Washington-based Stoke was founded in 2019 by Andy Lapsa and Tom Feldman. They founded the company after years of working at Blue Origin. When they left, Lapsa held an executive-level position. And Feldman was a senior engineer. Stoke is developing a fully reusable launch vehicle that can return both the booster and the second stage back to Earth. The rocket is being designed to fly on a daily basis, a feature that will be of particular interest to defense customers. The US Space Force has made clear its interest in providing fast-return launch capabilities.
Stoke raised $65 million in a Series A round in December 2021 from investors including Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Toyota Ventures and Spark Capital. More recently, the USSF said it would reserve a dedicated space for Stoke’s use at historic Cape Canaveral – Launch Complex 14, where numerous launches occurred in the 1960s. Stoke is currently preparing to fly the reusable upper stage on a vertical takeoff and landing “hopper” test flight, according to its website. “Space access, launch availability continues to be constrained. Building a robust commercial launch economy is critical to sustaining our industrial base and providing space access for defense and national security needs.” Lapsa said.
In-Q-Tel was established in 1999 to help the federal government capitalize on growing innovation and emerging technologies in the private sector. As a not-for-profit venture. The firm provides technology from startups for the CIA and other government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security. What is one of In-Q-Tel’s core value propositions? It is to facilitate connections between private companies and government partners, including the intelligence community.
In-Q-Tel has made 25 investments in the space sector, including Stoke. Other investments include Capella Space, Palantir and Swarm Technologies, which was acquired by SpaceX. Checks typically range from $250,000 to $3 million, the firm says on its website. An In-Q-Tel spokesperson confirmed that all of its investments in Stoke are in this window. In a separate written statement, Morrison said access to space is an important area of focus for the firm. “Stoke Space’s unique architecture has the potential to change the way we all design and use space,” he said.