The space industry has been freshened with several promising Ukrainian companies in recent years. Promin Aerospace is one of them. The company created by Misha Rudominski and Vitaly Yemets offers a completely new technology for creating launch vehicles. This technology will make private launches available for any company, reducing their cost and preparation time. We decided to learn more about the founders’ ideas, plans, and vision to understand the innovativeness of Promin Aerospace’s product.
The Origin Story of Promin Aerospace’s
Misha Rudominski, co-founder and CEO, told us that he has been “obsessed” with space since childhood and has always dreamed of working in this area. So, he got into a university to pursue a degree in engineering and began to study the basics of entrepreneurship. Although the startup Nect World, founded in 2019, became the first business project for Rudominski, it helped him move one step closer to space.
Rudominski gained the necessary business experience with Nect World and met Vitaly Yemets. He recalls how Yemets “bewitched” him with ideas and blueprints of the autophagic technology for creating rockets. “At first I didn’t even believe that this was possible because the idea of a new type of launch vehicles seemed fantastic.”
However, Yemets revealed the potential of the technology, while Rudominski explored its demand on the market. “I saw an opportunity not only to do what interests me and not just build the next rocket or satellite, but to create technology that is different from everything else on the market,” Rudominski shares. As a result, this vision, one’s men engineering knowledge, and another’s entrepreneurial skills led to the creation of Promin Aerospace in January 2021.
The Uniqueness of Promin’s Technology
The main feature of the new launch vehicles type is autophagic technology. This technology assumes that the engine works by burning a solid fuel rod that also serves as the rocket’s body. This feature provides several advantages for launches:
1. The weight of the spacecraft is reduced several times. Promin expects to create vehicles from 100 to 500 kg, while the lightest model that is available today weighs 2600 kg.
2. The technology greatly reduces the time and complexity of rocket assembly.
3. The spacecraft’s body delivers the cargo and leaves almost no space debris behind because it is burning during the flight.
Until today, this technology has practically not been explored. In the 1960s, the concept was described by American engineers, several scientists published their papers, but for 60 years, there were no actual tests and launches. In the coming years, Promin intends to use this technology to create a fundamentally new type of rocket for commercial launches.
Who and Why Need Such Launch Vehicles
Rudominski, as an experienced entrepreneur, would not start a business without analyzing the market. After studying the needs of potential customers, he evaluated the chances of autophagic rockets to be used for launches and shared his vision with us.
Everything is quite simple with the orbital market. Unlike traditional rockets, small Promin’s spacecraft designed for nanosatellites can be used for private launches. Although the cost per kilogram would be higher than that of large spacecraft like the Falcon, their total price would be ten times lower. Thus, most companies will be able to afford private launches of small cargoes at a convenient time without waiting for other companies to fill the rest of the space. In other words, the main advantage of Promin rockets for orbital flights is the flexibility and responsiveness that traditional rockets cannot provide.
The suborbital market is more complex, which plays into Promin’s hands. Rudominski explains that today the suborbital launch market is underdeveloped due to the large number of its sub-segments and the lack of traditional launch vehicles flexibility. Sub-segments arise because suborbital launches are necessary for many different purposes, from technology testing to cloud dispersal. However, the volume of orders is not large enough for the company to deal with only one sub-segment and prosper. At the same time, the design of traditional rockets is not flexible to change the launch weight for each sub-segment. So, clients have to turn to government agencies and go through hundreds of bureaucratic procedures to order suborbital launches. Another way is to use orbital flights for a much higher price.
For this reason, Promin’s offering is a real finding for the suborbital launch industry. Rudominski notes that due to the absence of a body, their rocket is very easy to adapt to the client’s needs by changing the length of the fuel rod. He clarifies that the company will not make custom engines for every customer but will develop three to four models of different sizes with several variations of the fuel rod. This approach makes it possible to create rockets for all sub-segments without additional costs in 1-3 months. Thus, Promin will attract many customers by offering them a fast and high-quality service for a relatively low launch price – from $200,000.
Launch sites for Promin’s Rockets
One of the space business challenges in Ukraine and Europe is to create launch sites without violating neighboring states’ borders. However, according to Rudominski, this obstacle is not a problem for Promin for several reasons.
Firstly, many companies will gladly provide a place for launches on sufficiently flexible terms. The main thing for Promin is to comply with the technical conditions and agree on details.
Secondly, Promin has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Atlantic Spaceport Consortium (ASC). This agreement means cooperation on spacecraft launching from Azores islands and the readiness of both parties to adapt for smooth operation. Rudominski also says the company is working on a similar deal to launch rockets from Scotland.
Thirdly, autophagic technology simplifies the transportation process. Some of the vehicles’ parts will be built in the Dnipro (Ukraine), and some will be made on 3D printers closer to the launch site and assembled by the Promin team. As a result, Promin will be able to launch its rockets from almost anywhere in the world in a short time.
Sustainability of Promin’s Technology
One of the issues for any business today is the safety of its products for the environment. Promin has an advantage in this regard as well. Since its rocket’s body is also its fuel, it practically does not leave space debris after delivering the cargo. Secondly, one of the fuel options creates only water vapor with small impurities, making it eco-friendly. The second fuel kind does not have this advantage but meets the standards and will go through tests to obtain governmental approval. It is not yet clear which of these options will be more efficient, but in any case, Promin technologies will not harm nature more than traditional rockets.
Promin’s Short- and Long-Term Plans
While Promin’s technology could provide it with years of income, the founders do not consider making it the mainstay. According to the founders, creating autophagic rockets will allow them to gain a foothold in the market and earn enough money to launch larger projects. The first test suborbital launch the company plans to make by the end of 2022. In 2023, the founders hope to carry out commercial launches; in 2024-2025, they want to cover the suborbital market and create an orbital rocket. However, the company’s ultimate goal is to develop infrastructure projects for the space industry.
“Creating infrastructure projects is like building roads for cars,” Rudominski explains jokingly. With this expression, he generalizes the process of building launch pads, logistics routes, development centers, and other facilities that make space projects possible. Promin aims to improve them and help companies make launches faster, easier, and cheaper.
The founders do not specify particular areas of work, since the start of their implementation will follow only after the success of autophagic spacecraft. However, conceptually they consider midstream space, that is, service satellites. Today, this direction is not well developed and has many flaws. Promin’s founders have already had a few valuable ideas, but they might be reevaluated in 5-7 years if midstream will develop significantly.
Therefore, the team’s immediate goals are to launch their rockets and develop the suborbital market, establishing their reputation as a strong and reliable company. More complex projects will follow, but their direction depends on the target audience’s needs.
New Series of Investments
Big plans require significant investments, and Promin’s founders understand this. They are preparing for a new round of investments and hope to raise $5 million. Previous funding from the Ukrainian fund QPDigital was spent expanding the team from two to 16 people, developing engine prototypes, and testing them. As a result, on December 23, 2021, the team conducted the largest successful test of fuel combustion.
The new round of investments will be used to expand the team further and develop suborbital rockets. The first step is to re-test the technology by independent contractors such as Yuzhmash to identify possible flaws. Such a check is needed because Yuzhmash has vast experience in testing and some expensive equipment that is not available to Promin. The second goal is to conduct a test flight up to 1 km at the end of spring. Successful launching will help the company form a clear proposal for customers and move their relationship from discussions to formal agreements. Simultaneously, work to attract investors has already begun, so there is every chance of fulfilling Promin’s plans on time.
The Future of Ukraine in Space
Rudominski is not afraid to assume the industry’s success in the future, having studied it from the inside. “People go into space business not for money, especially in Ukraine,” he notes. “I see a curious child in the head of every worker in the industry. And therefore, as long as companies offer interesting projects, people will join.” However, he believes that the Ukrainian space business should make some changes. In his opinion, our engineers do not have enough “humanitarian guys” who can find money and investors. There are not enough communicators and business people who know how to build teams and work in a competitive market.
However, Rudominski believes that soon more entrepreneurs will come into this business, seeing its potential. In this case, Ukraine has every chance of success with its strong technical and engineering base. The main thing is that private companies develop quickly enough and have time to adopt the expertise of the older generation of Yuzhmash and Pyvdenne Design Bureau.
Rudominski also notes that it will not be easy for those who decide to go into space today, and they know it. Promin and other young companies will have to prove to everyone around them – investors, customers, and media – that they can do their thing, since they do not have a success story yet. They create their history. The entrepreneur advises novice teams to look for Ukrainian and foreign grant programs for the first steps. Or, go to investors and surprise them with what they do. “It is essential to be confident in yourself, because if you don’t, then no one will.”