Stoke Space — Building 100% reusable rockets
A defining moment in space evolution. Iterate fast and frequently.
A defining moment in space evolution. Iterate fast and frequently.
We are at a defining moment in space evolution: in the next few years, we’ll see on-demand, low-cost, and sustainable rockets making their way from Earth to orbit and back, every day. This is the vision of Stoke Space, a Seattle-based rocket launch company, founded by space engineers Andy Lapsa and Tom Feldman in 2019.
Stoke’s core philosophy is grounded on high-velocity innovation — design, build, test, learn, and iterate fast. The result is a speed of development and efficiency that is unique in the space industry.
“With 100% reusable rockets we are providing a new way to reach space.” — James Miller, Head of Avionics at Stoke Space
Stoke’s mission to radically increase access to space by developing a new breed of durable rockets is supported by an impressive list of investors. Their latest funding round was led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the clean-tech initiative founded by Bill Gates. In 2021, Stoke received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to test their actively cooled metallic heat shield that protects their second stage during re-entry.
While still considered a newcomer in the industry, Stoke is developing at record-breaking speeds having moved faster than any other rocket company in history from seed money to engine testing.
As opposed to incumbent companies in the rocket industry, Stoke aims to create a more inclusive and sustainable solution that better fits the needs of small and medium-sized businesses. Their low-cost, fast-turnaround rockets will operate with a flexible schedule and minimal downtime, offering an accessible solution for satellite companies to reach orbit.
Stoke’s team is made up of some of the best aerospace engineers in the world — who know well that speed is essential for space evolution. Their avionics department needs to create novel solutions with competing timelines, thus, getting components in a timely manner is critical for production. However, due to long-standing chip shortages and post-pandemic supply chain issues, finding specific parts can take as long as six months to a year. This leads to serious bottlenecks that hinder production and block high-level decisions.
As James Miller, Head of Avionics explains,
“As a startup in the launch industry, you cannot afford to be held up by electronic issues. We don't want to get stuck waiting for parts and having to solve problems that should be easy.”
The increased pressure of having to maintain rapid production cycles amidst ongoing supply chain issues trickled down to the day-to-day work of the engineers. The team felt increasingly constrained by the procurement-related inefficiencies they were experiencing in the past few years.
"Once a design is shipped to a vendor, it could take 2-3 days to find and source a single missing component. Across 10 designs, this already adds up to a month of wasted time per year. One of these designs can have 150 pieces. As a startup without a massive logistics department, you either suck all your engineer's time away managing inventory or accept that you will have mistakes. Or you talk to Cofactr." — James Miller, Head of Avionics at Stoke Space
It soon became clear to the engineers that they needed a more robust procurement and logistics support system. Around six months ago, they came across Cofactr’s unified solution for electronics supply chain and supporting logistics. The team was delighted to find the solution they were looking for.
In the rapidly evolving space of rocket manufacturing, engineers need to be able to iterate fast and frequently. Stoke’s avionics team has always had a holistic approach to sourcing electronics parts. As opposed to a “just-in-time” method, they think strategically about sourcing components months in advance. Through Cofactr, they can buy and store parts in bulk, which allows them to be cost-efficient and remain prepared for any future scenario. Having the components within reach makes the team confident that, if needed, they are able to jump in and quickly make modifications to their designs at any time.
The amount of time and effort this saves is invaluable to not only the engineers but to the entire business. Things that used to take several days, such as sourcing dozens or hundreds of components, now take a matter of minutes. They just upload a BOM as an Excel file and the platform gives them a list of everything they need with automatically updated data on availability and prices.
“The value of Cofactr’s services cannot be overstated. We don’t have to go out and source things from different websites; we can just tell them what we need.” — James Miller, Head of Avionics at Stoke Space
When it comes to rocket manufacturing, the quality of parts is crucial. Since Cofactr works with certified electronics suppliers and provides comprehensive quality inspection and counterfeiting reports, Stoke’s engineers feel secure knowing they will always receive quality components in a manufacturing-ready state.
Today, all of Stoke’s electronic procurement needs are integrated into a single solution. Using Cofactr for sourcing, shipping, quality assurance, and storage needs enables the avionics team to eliminate bottlenecks, keep the procurement process as lean as possible, and focus on productive work.
“Cofactr provides a comprehensive, integrated solution for electronics procurement, storage, kitting, and shipping for us, which enables our team to focus on real problems.” — James Miller, Head of Avionics at Stoke Space
In addition, using the platform ensures that they don’t need to boost their headcount. Since sourcing and the physical management of electronics are logistically intense and time-consuming, most companies have dedicated teams to take care of these functions. Recruiting a team for the sole purpose of dealing with procurement was something the Stoke team wanted to avoid — and by managing and storing their electronics with Cofactr, they no longer have to worry about it.
“We can just press a button and Cofactr takes care of our procurement needs. It has completely eliminated the stress and allowed us to focus on the core competencies of our own business.” — James Miller, Head of Avionics at Stoke Space
The Stoke team sees Cofactr as an important tool in their future growth. As the number of their projects expands, the avionics team will utilize Cofactr as a scalable solution that enables them to focus on what matters: building innovative space technologies.