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HomeTechStoke Space has repeatedly received investment from the CIA's venture arm

Stoke Space has repeatedly received investment from the CIA’s venture arm


Stoke space has received multiple investments from In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the Central Intelligence Agency, TechCrunch has learned.

Stoke Space and In-Q-Tel have not previously publicly announced their relationship. While legally a separate entity from any government agency, In-Q-Tel receives all of its funding from government partners, including the defense and intelligence community.

William Morrison, director of In-Q-Tel, confirmed that he led the most recent investment, which closed at the end of February, and that the company has already made multiple investments in the company. In addition to the investment, the two entities also signed a “technology development agreement,” an In-Q-Tel spokesperson said. Stoke joins a very small cadre of launch companies – including Rocket Lab and ABL Space Systems – that have received investment from the company.

“The team has been incredibly good at execution, insanely capital efficient,” said Morrison.

Based in Kent, Washington, Stoke was founded in 2019 by Andy Lapsa and Tom Feldman. They started the company after years as a propulsion engineer at Blue Origin; when they left, Lapsa held a director-level position and Feldman was a senior engineer. Stoke is developing a fully reusable launch vehicle capable of delivering both the booster and second stage back to Earth. The missile is being designed to fly daily, a feature that is likely to be especially appealing to defense customers. The US Space Force has publicly stated its interest in acquiring fast launch capabilities.

Stoke raised $65 million in December 2021 in a Series A round from investors including Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Toyota Ventures and Spark Capital. More recently, the USSF said it would reserve a special area for Stoke’s use at historic Cape Canaveral – Launch Complex 14, which hosted multiple launches in the 1960s. Stoke is currently preparing to make a vertical take-off and landing “hopper” test flight with the reusable upper stage, according to its website.

“Access to space remains limited due to launch availability,” Lapsa said in a statement to TechCrunch. “Building a robust commercial launch economy is critical to sustaining our industrial base and ensuring access to space for defense and national security needs.”

In-Q-Tel was founded in 1999 as a not-for-profit corporation to help the federal government capitalize on growing innovation and emerging technologies in the private sector. The company sources technology from startups for the CIA and other government agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security. One of In-Q-Tel’s key value propositions is facilitating connections between private companies and its government partners, including in the intelligence community.

In-Q-Tel has made 25 investments in the space sector, including Stoke. Other investments include Capella Space, Palantir and Swarm Technologies, which was acquired by SpaceX. Checks typically range from $250,000 to $3 million, the company says on its website. A spokesman for In-Q-Tel confirmed that all of its investments in Stoke fall within that window.

Morrison added in a separate written statement that access to space is an important area of ​​focus for the company. “The unique architecture of Stoke Space has the potential to change the way we all design and use space,” he said.

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