Space startup and heavy AM adopter Launcher has a subsidiary office in Dnipro, Ukraine consisting of eleven engineers and five support team members. As a precaution given the escalating political situation, during the last few weeks, the company successfully relocated its Launcher Ukraine staff to Sofia, Bulgaria, opening a new Launcher Europe office.
The Launcher Ukraine engineering team has been contributing to the company’s E-2 liquid rocket engine design with permission via U.S. State Department Technical Assistance Agreement. In the last 12 months, Launcher has also grown to 50 team members at the HQ in Hawthorne (Los Angeles, CA).
“We invited their immediate family to join them in this move and funded their relocation expenses. We continue to encourage and support five of the support staff and one engineer who decided to remain in Ukraine,” said Launcher founder Max Haot.
“I have personally had the chance to work with Ukrainian engineers since 2005, first for my companies Livestream and Mevo where we built software engineering teams in Ukraine. In 2014, we experienced the first threat to our team members and relocated them to Montenegro as a precaution,” Haot added.
“When I started Launcher in 2017, with my understanding of the historical aerospace and propulsion talent of Ukraine, combined with experiencing firsthand the quality of their character and engineering skill in the Mevo and Livestream teams, it was clear that creating partnerships in Ukraine to import their design and skill to the U.S., in compliance with U.S. export control (ITAR) requirements, would be a key differentiator in Launcher’s strategy to achieve unmatched high-performance propulsion standards. It is also beneficial to the United States propulsion technology base to increase our nation’s capability in oxidizer-rich staged combustion liquid rocket engines by importing key engineering talent and designs,” Haot further explained.
As part of this strategy, Launcher also hired its Chief Engineer in Ukraine, Igor Nikishchenko, who has 30+ years in oxidizer-rich staged combustion engines development and has been US-based since 2018 with a Permanent Resident Status. For the world’s highest performance closed-cycle rocket engine turbopump designs, Launcher licensed Soviet heritage designs from Yuzhnoye in Ukraine (RD-8 Engine). The development program no longer has dependencies on deliverables from Yuzhnoye in Ukraine since the royalty-free designs have all been received and the pump is now 3D printed at the HQ in the U.S. and has been successfully tested at NASA Stennis Space Center.
Launcher is currently and has been majority U.S.-owned, with no investment ties to Ukraine or Russia. The Orbiter and Light product development continue to meet the schedule expectations.