Toyota Ventures
Published in

Toyota Ventures

Jim Adler

Dec 15, 2021

3 min read

Completely Reusable Space Launch Vehicles: Our Investment in STOKE Space

Historically, the space industry and startups are not natural companions. I know this from firsthand experience. When I left the space industry in 1993, one inescapable impediment for me was the seemingly intractable cost of escaping our home planet’s gravity well to send stuff into space — around $20,000 per kilogram. This stubborn fact restricted space to the domain of governments and the largest private enterprises. In their hands, the economics of space were glacial, costs remained high, and access to new entrants remained closed. Fortunately, those days are waning.

Easier said than done, but the key to growing the space ecosystem is to lower launch cost per kilogram by an order of magnitude or more. Unsurprisingly, space tech startups are the ones disrupting these launch economics. That’s why I’m excited to announce Toyota Ventures’ investment in STOKE Space, a startup that’s building a completely reusable launch vehicle that will provide access to space at a fraction of previous costs. Serving satellite customers on-demand — an idea unheard of decades ago — STOKE aims to deliver satellites from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to Trans Lunar Injection (TLI), with order-of-magnitude improvement in both cost and availability. The resulting satellite launch economics are akin to commercial air travel, opening the door to a new era of applications.

Based in Kent, Washington, STOKE Space was founded in 2019 by CEO Andy Lapsa and CTO Tom Feldman. They’ve built a world-class team with successful launches under their belt from SpaceX, Blue Origin, and RocketDyne. STOKE is operating a rocket test facility in Moses Lake, Washington, and has already executed successful demonstrations of the central aspects of its technology, with more to come.

STOKE’s secret to sustainable, low-cost launches is a unique reusable second-stage design. Reusability of first-stage boosters has gotten much attention already — necessary but insufficient to lower costs by several orders of magnitude. STOKE’s focus on the second stage is critical as it avoids the use of traditional ceramic tiles that need exhaustive maintenance, and large aerodynamic surfaces that make operational reusability a larger challenge.

By achieving second-stage reusability, STOKE will reduce cost and expand accessibility, which will accelerate growing space satellite applications. We’re in the process of seeing a new space stack reveal itself before our eyes. This mobility space stack is the newest incarnation of the mobility stack, comprising infrastructure, vehicle platform, and consumer offerings. STOKE is building the foundational infrastructure and launch vehicle layers, enabling satellite applications and consumer offerings on top.

As part of our Frontier Fund, we’re proud to participate in STOKE’s $65M Series A funding round, led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, alongside Spark Capital, Point72 Ventures, Alameda Research, and Global Founders Capital, as well as previous investors NFX, MaC Ventures, Alexis Ohanian’s SevenSevenSix, and Joe Montana’s Liquid2. Check out the STOKE Space website and the Toyota Ventures portfolio page to learn more.