Propulsion: The Action of Driving or Pushing Forward: Our Investment in Ursa Major



Nov 30, 2023



Eclipse is excited to lead Ursa Major’s Series D/D1 round to transform industries where propulsion is needed at scale by accelerating optimal products into the most critical missions.

By: Lior Susan, Seth Winterroth, and Greg Reichow

In May 1961, John F. Kennedy stood in front of Congress and declared that the U.S. “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to earth.” Less than 10 years later, Neil Armstrong’s foot crushed lunar dust as he stepped off Apollo 11 and into history. Inspired by having the stars within our grasp, the Space Race fueled an unprecedented surge in aerospace scientific and engineering breakthroughs and inspired a generation of students to become builders in the U.S. However, following this celestial Golden Age, America’s aerospace dominance has waned over the years. The miraculous morphed into the mundane because of massive consolidation within the defense industry due to Pentagon budget cuts, resulting in a slow descent towards mediocrity without a North Star to guide the Space program.

Other countries, however, remained inspired. The U.S.’ once unmatched propulsion capabilities — the very technology that took us into space— stalled, and, as such, left us reliant on Russian-produced rocket engines. And, while the Cold War did eventually thaw, winters are cyclical, and that dependency started to leave our country exposed. Over several decades, our munitions supply chains became increasingly outsourced offshore and entangled with China, and the U.S. began to face greater potential national security risks. 

Reigniting Propulsion to Push Progress Forward

Today, the U.S. faces a pivotal moment in propulsion technology, with its dominance neutralized in key areas, and excessive reliance on SpaceX. Fortunately, modern technologies, manufacturing processes, and skilled talent have sparked a new era of enhanced capabilities. To address this, a skilled cadre of engineers and operators, adept at solving complex problems, is needed to tackle these mission-critical challenges, in order to restore and advance U.S. leadership in this crucial sector.

It was against this backdrop that Ursa Major was founded in 2015 with the singular mission to transform industries where propulsion is needed at scale by accelerating optimal products into the most critical missions. Today, Ursa Major is the leading independent rocket propulsion provider and a critical player in rebuilding America’s defense industrial base. Ursa Major’s propulsion-focused approach propels the launch industry to new heights by providing vehicle-agnostic engines for a variety of launch, hypersonic, and national security needs. Today, the company announced it has secured $138M to introduce solid rocket motor line and scale rocket propulsion for those applications. Eclipse is thrilled to lead its Series D and D-1 funding rounds in partnership with Explorer 1 Fund, RTX Ventures, BlackRock, Exor, Mack and Co., and XN.

Most of us don’t spend much time thinking about rocket engines, yet reliable rocket propulsion is critical to maintaining the space supply chain and growing the space industry. Without modern propulsion capabilities, the U.S. and our allies will be unable to effectively maintain and secure our way of life through deterrence, nor will we be competitive in the new — and rapidly growing — Space Economy. 

The Leading Rocket Engine Technology

Ursa Major’s focus on propulsion allows for a deep specialization in that technology, leading to engines that exceed industry standards in performance, reliability, and manufacturability. By utilizing the latest design and manufacturing capabilities, such as metal 3D printing, the company can design engines composed of complex, lightweight, and robust engine components that would be impossible — or too costly — to produce using traditional manufacturing methods. The team’s decision to vertically integrate and co-locate design, manufacturing, and testing operations streamlines Ursa Major’s entire development process. This structural advantage not only fosters seamless communication and collaboration among different teams, but also significantly reduces the time from concept to testing, ensuring that their development velocity is unparalleled in the industry. In an industry where design-to-test programs have historically taken years, the team at Ursa Major has proven their ability to develop world leading capabilities in months. An accelerated learning rate is critical for organizations tackling complex development programs and the Eclipse team was immediately attracted to Ursa Major’s total and complete adoption of this operating methodology. Ursa Major is now the leading rocket engine technology, providing a substantial competitive advantage in an increasingly dynamic and demanding market. It’s an enormous opportunity.

Eclipse has known Ursa Major CEO Joe Laurienti and COO  Nick Doucette, both extraordinary aerospace engineers and operations leaders with experience at SpaceX and Blue Origin, for several years. Since the company’s inception, Joe and Nick have built a world-class organization purposely designed and staffed with the brightest minds across all key functions necessary to build a modern rocket engine company. From our experience with category-changing companies, something special happens when a passionate team of the absolute best talent unites around a bold, common mission of significant magnitude and consequence. Small teams working together with urgency and precision shift the slope of what the world believes to be possible. Ursa Major epitomizes this truth.  

Ursa Major's Vital Role in U.S. Defense

Since its last round of funding, Ursa Major has responded to deficiencies in the nation’s defense capabilities by introducing Draper, a new storable liquid engine designed to defend against hypersonic weapons, and Lynx, a new solution for designing and manufacturing solid rocket motors for tactical applications. With deep experience working with the DoD, the company won multiple contracts from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to build and test liquid propellant engines for the U.S. hypersonic program. With this new round of funding, Ursa Major will continue to develop Lynx, while scaling production capacity and advancing multiple SRM propulsion programs. This work is critical as the U.S. faces a clear and present national security risk due to recent depletion of the country’s munitions supply and a fragile, low volume supply chain incapable of meeting production demand necessary to eliminate this security crisis. This is a moment: an opportunity to revitalize our dominance in the space domain and Ursa Major is heeding the call.   

In the face of today’s daunting challenges, we are inspired by newly formed partnerships among government, prime contractors, and modern aerospace companies. Partnerships that harken back to decades prior when similar cooperation set a foundation for economic security and societal prosperity. We are in the early innings of a new renaissance of public-private partnership. One that promises to drive innovation forward at an enhanced rate and create entirely new operating models for research and discovery, defense, and commercial activity — keeping us freer, safer, and more competitive.  

Ursa Major’s innovation in propulsion systems not only fills a critical gap in the defense industrial base today, but also embodies the very essence of driving progress forward. For the U.S. and its allies, the ability to deter threats will depend on our ability to produce solutions that utilize modern manufacturing methods that do not depend on fragmented supply chains with heavy concentration in China. The Ursa Major team has the technical capability and vision to deliver the high production rates, low cost, and advanced technology needed to power the future of defense and aerospace and ultimately, maintain national security.

Congratulations Joe, Nick, and the entire Ursa Major team!

Follow Eclipse Ventures on LinkedIn for the latest on the Industrial Evolution.


  • Defense
  • Manufacturing
  • Space Economy
  • Supply Chain

Related Articles

News, Portfolio
Mar 26, 2024|4 min read

Racing the Clock: Our Investment in

Read More
Dec 12, 2023|3 min read

Breaking Orbit: Safeguarding the New Space Economy — Our Series B in True Anomaly

Read More
Oct 17, 2023|3 min read

Building Infrastructure for Modern Cancer Treatments: Our Series A in Nucleus RadioPharma

Read More
Oct 4, 2023|5 min read

Charging Towards Giga-Scale in America: Our Investment in Peak Energy

Read More