By Jason Ranbow,
Published by SpaceNews, 13 February 2023
TAMPA, Fla. — Canadian launch startup SpaceRyde has filed for bankruptcy just months after noise complaints put an end to rocket engine tests.
The five-year-old company, which had been developing a rocket that would use a stratospheric balloon as its first stage, filed for bankruptcy Feb. 10 and named Deloitte as trustee to handle its affairs.
SpaceRyde had raised about $10 million from a mix of early-stage investors and government awards, but needed more funds ahead of a goal to start commercial launches in 2024 with a 20-meter-tall rocket.
The plan was to charge customers $250,000 for delivering payloads under 25 kilograms to low Earth orbit (LEO) using SpaceRyde’s three-stage rocket Ryder rocket, which would fire engines after a balloon took it above most of the Earth’s atmosphere.
In addition to cubesats, the company had said Ryder could accommodate 100-kilogram to 150-kilogram satellites for a maximum launch cost of $1 million.
The venture had planned to launch test payloads to sub-orbit and LEO this year before commercial flights.
Planned customers included Qosmosys, a Singaporean venture planning satellite racing games, and a subsidiary of Dutch cubesat maker Innovative Solutions In Space.
Further out, SpaceRyde also had plans to fly a demonstration mission at the end of 2024 to around the moon and back to expand its business.
It is a challenging market for space startups as tough macroeconomic conditions weigh on their access to capital.
Small launch startups, in particular, have to grapple with high up-front costs in a market where SpaceX is seeking to grow its dominance by lowering prices.
For SpaceRyde CEO Sohrab Haghighat, who co-founded the startup with his wife Saharnaz Safari, it had an even bigger hurdle to clear.
“Our issue was not lack of interest,” Haghighat said, adding that the startup had “a perfectly-placed product and price.”
Instead, the company ran into a testing roadblock last year that Haghighat described as “one of the biggest issues — perhaps the biggest issue we had.”
He declined to provide more details.
The Trent Hills municipality of Ontario asked SpaceRyde to stop engine tests from a lot in the region Oct. 7 after their noise brought attention to how an industrial application was operating on rurally zoned land.
When SpaceRyde bought the land, “the understanding at the time was it would be a temporary operation that focused on supporting the business of testing balloon technology to deliver satellites into orbit,” Trent Hills mayor Bob Crate said during a Sept. 13 council meeting.
A petition started last year to stop SpaceRyde rocket engine tests it says can be “heard for many miles” has received more than 800 signatures.
The Trent Hills municipality said SpaceRyde can continue tests if it gets approval for a new planning application with the correct zoning.
“To date, no planning application has been received by the Municipality proposing any change in use for the site,” the municipality said in a Feb. 9 update.
The municipality also said there had been no rocket engine tests at the site since it asked SpaceRyde to stop them.
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