Radian Aerospace: Launching Single-Stage to Orbit Vehicles

Developing space systems to carry passengers to and from low-Earth orbit

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2 min

Space rocket launches have long been implemented with modular vessels, called stages to provide the astronomical energy needed for takeoff. Once a stage empties its fuel, it detaches and returns to earth to eliminate the weight of the empty tank. While this technique has proven successful, it makes a rocket’s reusability very challenging.

The long sought-after solution to this problem is the development of single-stage to orbit vehicles (SSTOs). SSTOs do not expend hardware components on the way to space, making the craft fully reusable and driving down costs.

Alumni Ventures portfolio company Radian Aerospace is attempting to build the world’s first SSTO horizontal takeoff and landing (HTHL) spaceplane to provide a lower-cost, higher-cadence alternative for transportation to orbit. In addition, horizontal takeoff enables the aircraft to launch more frequently — allowing the company to transport payloads nearly on-demand, similar to an airplane.

Shooting for the Moon

Radian is entering a market with high interest and strong growth potential. By leveraging the characteristics of an SSTO and HTHL aircraft, Radian plans to target an existing gap in the spaceflight economy and serve customers with medium-sized payloads (~1,500 – 20,000 lbs) for asset deployment, rendezvous missions, free flight, and point-to-point delivery. The company has gained tremendous support from the public and private aerospace industry, including several U.S. agencies and several leading private space companies, plus LOIs for $1.5 billion.

What We Liked About Radian

Astronomical Opportunity & Industry Support: Along with other governmental and private stakeholders, NASA is advocating for a robust low-Earth economy. Transportation will be a vital component, and a lower-cost, accessible alternative like Radian’s will help serve demand.

Expert Team: The team building Radian’s solution has decades of combined experience. The CTO of the company is Livingston Holder, who is a former U.S. Air Force Officer and payload specialist, a 14-year veteran of Boeing (including a role as the head of advanced space transportation), and former program director of Lockheed Martin’s X-33 SSTO spaceplane. Holder has assembled a team of highly regarded experts that are well connected in the aerospace industry.

Established Investors: Radian’s investor syndicate includes Exor, Advection Growth, Gaingels, SpaceFund, Type One Ventures, The Venture Collective, In-Q-Tel, and experienced individual investors. The syndicate possesses deep aerospace knowledge and shows a high level of engagement in helping Radian grow and efficiently develop its technology.

How We Are Involved

Bascom Ventures (for the Wisconsin community), Purple Arch Ventures (for the Northwestern community), and Lakeshore Ventures (for the UChicago community) deployed capital in Radian’s $27.5 million seed round. Lead investor was Fine Structure Ventures, a venture capital fund affiliated with FMR LLC, the parent company of Fidelity Investments. The deal was also part of AV’s Deep Tech Fund.

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Contact [email protected] for additional information. To see additional risk factors and investment considerations, visit av-funds.com/disclosures.