Announcing Launcher’s Chief Designer: Igor Nikishchenko

3 min readDec 4, 2018


Launcher is building a rocket to deliver small satellites to orbit.

The first step in our roadmap is to develop the highest performance, lowest cost liquid rocket engine for small launch vehicles: Launcher E-2, a 3D printed, 22,000-lbf thrust, LOX/Kerosene, closed cycle liquid rocket engine (oxidizer rich staged combustion) with a booster stage version specific impulse target of 326s (vac).

Igor Nikishchenko, Chief Designer, Launcher

To make this goal possible, today we are announcing that Igor Nikishchenko has joined our team as Launcher’s Chief Designer based at our New York City headquarters.

Igor has over 30 years of experience in high-performance liquid rocket engine development. He was Deputy Chief Designer in the Liquid Propulsion Department at Yuzhnoye, the Ukrainian state-owned company that designed the Zenit launch vehicle, as well as the RD-120 and RD-8 oxidizer-rich staged combustion liquid rocket engines. Yuzhnoye is also the designer and sub-contractor for the first stage of the Northrop Grumman Antares launch vehicle.

More recently Igor was working in Italy for Avio, a key contractor for the European Space Agency’s Ariane and Vega launchers.

During his career, Igor has been involved in the design and development of propulsion systems for various launch vehicles, including hypergolic gas generator cycle engines and LOX/Kerosene ox-rich staged combustion cycle booster engines with thrust levels ranging from 4,500-lbf to 270,000-lbf. He is an expert in theoretical modeling of operating processes during the design and development of rocket engines. At Yuzhnoye, he also led the development of several software products for dynamic, thermal and strength calculations of liquid rocket engines.

It’s surprising to many that the world’s highest performance booster liquid rocket engines ever built were designed in the 1980s in the former Soviet Union (whose institutions are now split between Ukraine and Russia) and are still unbeaten to this day and in production in the form of NPO Energomash’s RD-180. Even more surprising is that RD-180 is still currently used for the first stage of America’s Atlas V rocket.

RD-180’s origin is linked to RD-170 (the most powerful rocket engine ever built), and RD-120, the first kerosene-based oxidizer rich staged combustion engine, which powers the second stage engine of the Ukrainian launcher Zenit — designed by Igor’s former employer Yuzhnoye in Ukraine.

Bringing Igor’s unique experience in kerosene-based, oxidizer-rich staged combustion (ORSC) to Launcher and to the U.S. will enable us to design and manufacture a new high-performance and low-cost American orbital rocket engine by integrating Igor’s propulsion heritage experience with the latest additive manufacturing (3D printing) techniques. It’s also important to note that “adding ORSC cycle kerosene engine to the U.S. fleet of liquid rocket engines that matches or improves upon the capabilities of foreign-built equivalents” is a stated priority of NASA and the Air Force (See for example NASA Roadmap, Propulsion TA 1.2.2 or this Air Force Rocket Lab Interview).

Igor is a Ukrainian national and was granted a U.S. Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) to permit relocation and work at Launcher in the USA. He is now based at Launcher’s main office in New York City.

Max Haot, Founder & CEO with Igor Nikishchenko, Chief Designer, Launcher.

You can connect with Igor at or on LinkedIn

Please join me in welcoming Igor to the Launcher team.

Best Regards,

Max Haot
Founder & CEO




Launcher is developing the world’s most efficient rocket to deliver small satellites to orbit.