In this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, Nick sits down with Sohrab Haghighat, the co-founder and CEO of SpaceRyde – Canada’s first orbital class rocket manufacturer. SpaceRyde’s goal is to build a rocket that will give Canada domestic access to space at a substantially reduced cost.

However, what truly sets them apart is their solution for getting out of the lower atmosphere – traditionally, the most expensive, wasteful, and deadly part of the voyage. Rather than using more power, they simply use a balloon.

SpaceRyde’s solution is remarkably simple: float the rocket above 99 percent of the atmosphere with a weather balloon and launch from there. According to Haghighat, by doing so, they can build a rocket that uses “methodologies that are significantly cheaper than what it usually takes to manufacture a rocket…and these are savings that we can directly pass along to our customers.” 

Sohrab standing next to a component of the Ryder rocket engine.
Sohrab Haghighat standing next to a component of the Ryder rocket engine.

The density of the lower atmosphere makes it difficult to launch rockets. As the rocket accelerates through the atmosphere to reach an orbital speed of eight kilometres per second, atmospheric pressure pushes back on the vehicle (reaching a maximum point known as Max-Q). This increases the costs of building the launch vehicle, which must be designed to withstand these conditions.

The intense pace of technological development means that projects risk being outdated by launch day. According to Haghighat, the current wait times for a spot on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 are around two years and come at a cost of $1.1 Million for a load of 200 kilograms or less. SpaceRyde is looking to launch customer payloads to the orbital path of their choice for $250,000 and much more frequently. This is important because the current trajectory of space innovation is outpacing launch schedules, creating bottlenecks (especially in countries without domestic access to space). By having access to more frequent and affordable launches, the margin of error goes down and innovation can progress.

Col. Hadfield addressing media and SpaceRyde staff at their launch day.
Col. Hadfield addressing media and SpaceRyde staff at their launch day.

It’s impossible to predict all the innovations this new technology will spawn. However, orbit just got a lot closer for Canada and Ontario. Have a listen.

0:00:00-0:03:37 – Intro
0:03:38-0:04:07 – Meeting our guest, Sohrab Haghighat
0:04:08-0:04:43 – Sitting in Canada’s first Rocket Factory – This is SpaceRyde
0:04:44-0:07:27 – SpaceRyde’s solution to getting off the ground & out of the lower atmosphere
0:07:28-0:09:24 – Rocket Science 101 – What is ‘Max Q’?
0:09:24-0:10:18 – Quick history of launching rockets from balloons
0:10:19-0:13:03 – Discussing the Ryder rocket & comparing costs to a Falcon 9 launch
0:13:04-0:17:14 – The slow pace of technological evolution in space travel (& SpaceRyde’s solution)
0:17:15-0:20:07 – Opening the doors for additional manufacturing innovation – the costs of not going to space
0:20:08-0:22:26 – SpaceRyde’s plans for their rocket – THE network of orbital rockets
0:22:27-0:26:00 – Rocket Science 102 – Vacuum vs sea-level rocket engines (& why the difference matters)
0:26:01-0:27:07 – Sohrab’s academic/professional path to “Canada’s first Rocket Factory”
0:27:08-0:31:29 – Sohrab’s story of how he got to where he is
0:31:30-0:34:17 – Why Canada?
0:34:18-0:35:51 – Canada’s going to the moon!