Following SpaceX's Footsteps, Impulse Space’s First Mission Will Be a Vital Test of Its Manufacturing Strategy

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Following SpaceX's Footsteps, Impulse Space’s First Mission Will Be a Vital Test of Its Manufacturing Strategy
Photo: Impulse Space

Building a spacecraft is no simple feat. Which is why historically, most manufacturers have opted to contract outside firms to handle constructing parts of their rockets, sacrificing in-house oversight for speed as they rush towards lucrative contracts to stay afloat.

But SpaceX’s track record of launches has inspired other startups to build their own spacecraft in-house. The company proved it could make vertical integration work, and that by controlling all facets of the product’s life cycle – all the way from design to assembly to testing and launch –it could drive down costs because the company’s divisions were sharing infrastructure and equipment.

With El Segundo-based Impulse Space, CEO Tom Mueller is attempting to do the same thing. Mueller founded SpaceX in 2021 after nearly 17 years running propulsion at SpaceX. Working with $30 million in venture funding, Impulse believes that if it can supervise all aspects of its supply and manufacturing chains, it can reduce anomalies or failures and reach Mars even before SpaceX, all while working alongside it.

Impulse Space’s first mission is called LEO Express-1 and will see the company’s Mira orbital service craft hitch a ride to low Earth orbit on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The launch is slated for the fourth quarter of this year and Impulse chief operating officer Barry Matsumori told dot.LA he expects that to be sometime in October (the launch window hasn’t yet been determined). The mission is part of Impulse’s overall goal to become a sort of Uber for the eventual industrial space economy, ferrying companies’ goods across various orbits as well as storing them.

“It’s actually a service vehicle, meaning it will do more than just transport payloads,” Matsumori said of Mira. “Even the first missions, they’ll have sensors that can do other kinds of work while on orbit.”

Matsumori added that he views Mira as “a high-propulsive satellite.”

During the mission Mira will do some demo maneuvers, including hosting and delivering a payload in-orbit. Mtsumori wouldn’t disclose what that first test payload will be, or who it belongs to.

“We are a bunch of ex-SpaceX-ers, and Tom [Mueller] obviously is, and we believe in vertical integration, because one can control supply chain, quality and cost,” Matsumori told dot.LA. He added that if Impulse were to go with an outside supplier for its propulsion systems, “the price of that system goes up many percentage points compared to what we’re doing.”

One aspect Impulse is eager to test is its proprietary in-house propellant system, which uses a blend of ethane and nitrous oxide. Matsumori said that propulsion systems are typically the most expensive and challenging part of the entire spacecraft. According to him, the fuel Impulse developed is “green” – in other words, storable and nontoxic if it leaks – and developed to be non-corrosive, meaning if there’s a spill, it won’t begin eating away at vital equipment.

Matsumori noted SpaceX has experimented with these fuels but added, “It’s not common. A few other people are using it, but can everybody implement a proven design? No, it has to be a really good propulsion team to figure out how to get the highest performance out of the propellants,” he said. Adding that the system should be qualified for flight “shortly.”

Propulsion is Mueller’s background; he was the propulsion chief technology officer at SpaceX from 2014 to 2019. But he joined SpaceX a decade into its evolution, when it had already had years of experimentation under its belt. Impulse is working with a much tighter timetable.

Matsumori said building all the equipment in-house at Impulse will hopefully reduce the risk of smaller parts jeopardizing the larger mission. If something does go awry, it’s more likely Impulse will invest the time into fixing it rather than outsource, he added.

“What is the number one thing that causes a launch delay? Valves,” Matsumori said. “It’s typically valve failures. We chose, again, vertical integration, we chose to do our own valves… we know exactly what the quality [is].”

If Mira can complete its maneuvers and return on a capsule back to Earth, it’ll be a validation of Impulse’s strategy up until this point.

Impulse recently added five acres to its site at the Mojave Air and Space Port, a sign it plans to ramp up testing of its engines and conduct more low-level experimental flights.

The company is also developing a Mars entry capsule, lander and rover that will be used in a mission with Relativity Space that’s supposed to lift off headed for the Red Planet next year.

“We’ve always said that was an ambitious goal, and Relativity Space would say the same thing,” Matsumori said of the deadline.

If LEO-Express-1 validates Impulse’s manufacturing strategy, which Matsumori said he expects it will, then it’ll truly be full steam ahead on more audacious projects. Impulse is currently testing the propulsion on a prototype Mars lander with plans to develop a “very large vehicle” that will be reusable and eventually rival ULA’s Centaur upper stage.

“Having a stage that competes with Centaur yet is at a fraction of the cost, that’s going to be really exciting for the market,” Matsumori said. “It's not just about Impulse, it's about the entire industry – it needs to evolve.”

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

“Millions of Dollars Completely Wasted”: Without Neuromarketing, Tech Firms’ Ads Get Lost in the Noise

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

“Millions of Dollars Completely Wasted”: Without Neuromarketing, Tech Firms’ Ads Get Lost in the Noise

At Super Bowl LVII, advertisers paid at least $7 million for 30–second ad spots, and even more if they didn’t have a favorable relationship with Fox. But the pricey commercials didn’t persuade everyone.

A recent report from advertising agency Kern and neuroscience marketing research outfit SalesBrain is attempting to answer that question using facial recognition and eye-tracking software.

Read moreShow less

Behind Her Empire: ComplYant Founder and CEO Shiloh Johnson on Helping Small Businesses

Yasmin Nouri

Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

Behind Her Empire: ComplYant Founder and CEO Shiloh Johnson on Helping Small Businesses

On this episode of Behind Her Empire, ComplYant founder and CEO Shiloh Johnson discusses her journey to building a multimillion dollar business and making knowledge of taxes more accessible.

Read moreShow less

How Token and Tixr Plan To Take on Ticketmaster in L.A.

Andria Moore

Andria is the Social and Engagement Editor for dot.LA. She previously covered internet trends and pop culture for BuzzFeed, and has written for Insider, The Washington Post and the Motion Picture Association. She obtained her bachelor's in journalism from Auburn University and an M.S. in digital audience strategy from Arizona State University. In her free time, Andria can be found roaming LA's incredible food scene or lounging at the beach.

How Token and Tixr Plan To Take on Ticketmaster in L.A.
Evan Xie

When Taylor Swift announced her ‘Eras’ tour back in November, all hell broke loose.

Hundreds of thousands of dedicated Swifties — many of whom were verified for the presale — were disappointed when Ticketmaster failed to secure them tickets, or even allow them to peruse ticketing options.

But the Taylor Swift fiasco is just one of the latest in a long line of complaints against the ticketing behemoth. Ticketmaster has dominated the event and concert space since its merger with Live Nation in 2010 with very few challengers — until now.

Adam Jones, founder and CEO of Token, a fan-first commerce platform for events, said he has the platform and the tech ready to take it on. With Token, Jones is creating a system where there are no queues. In other words, fans know immediately which events are sold out and where.

“We come in very fortunate to have a modern, scalable tech stack that's not going to have all these outages or things being down,” Jones said. “That's step one. The other thing is we’re being aggressively transparent about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. So with the Taylor Swift thing…you would know in real time if you actually have a chance of getting the tickets.”

Here’s how it works: Users register for Token’s app and then purchase tickets to either an in-person event, or an event in the metaverse through Animal Concerts. The purchased ticket automatically shows up in the form of a mintable NFT, which can then be used toward merchandise purchases, other ticketed events or, Adams’s hope for the future — external rewards like airline travel. The more active a user is on the site, the more valuable their NFT becomes.

Ticketmaster has dominated the music industry for so long because of its association with big name artists. To compete, Token is working on gaining access to their own slew of popular artists. They recently entered into a partnership with Animal Concerts, a live and non-live event experiences platform that houses artists like Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg and Robin Thicke.

“You'll see they do all the metaverse side of the house,” Jones said. “And we're going to be the [real-life] web3 sides of the house.”

In addition, Token prides itself on working with the artists selling on their platform to set up the best system for their fanbase, devoid of hefty prices and additional fees — something Ticketmaster users have often complained about. Jones believes where Ticketmaster fails, Token thrives. The app incentivizes users to share more data about their interests, venues and artists by operating on a kind of points system in the form of mintable NFTs.

“We can actually take the dataset and say there’s 100 million people in the globe that love Taylor Swift, so imagine she’s going on tour and we ask [the user], ‘Would you go to see her in Detroit?’ And imagine this place has 30,000 seats, but 100,000 people clicked ‘yes,’” he explained. “So you can actually inform the user before anything even happens, right? About what their options are and where to get it.”

Tixr, a Santa-Monica based ticketing app, was founded on the idea that modern ticketing platforms were “living in the legacy of the past.” They plan to attract users by offering them exclusive access to ticketed events that aren’t in Ticketmaster’s registry.

“It melts commerce that's beyond ticketing…to allow fans to experience and purchase things that don't necessarily have to do with tickets,” said Tixr CEO and Founder Robert Davari. “So merchandise, and experiences, and hospitality and stuff like that are all elegantly melded into this one, content driven interface.”

Tixr sells tickets to exclusive concerts like a Tyga performance at a night club in Arizona, general in-person festivals like ComplexCon, and partners with local vendors like The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach to sell tickets to the races. Plus, Davari said it’s equipped to handle high-demand, so customers aren’t spending hours waiting in digital queues.

Like Token, Tixr has also found success with a rewards program — in the form of fan marketing.

“There's nothing more powerful in the core of any event, brand, any live entertainment, [than] the community behind it,” Davari said. “So we build technology to empower those fans and to reward them for bringing their friends and spreading the word.”

Basically, if a user gets a friend to purchase tickets to an event, then the original user gets rewarded in the form of discounts or upgrades.

Coupled with their platforms’ ability to handle high-demand events, both Jones and Davari believe their platforms have what it takes to take on Ticketmaster. Expansion into the metaverse, they think, will also help even the playing field.

“So imagine you can't go to Taylor Swift,” Jones said. “What if you could purchase an exclusive to actually go to that exact same show over the metaverse? An artist’s whole world can expand past the stage itself.”

With the way ticketing for events works now, obviously not everyone always gets the exact price, venue or date they want. There are “winners and losers.” Jones’s hope is that by expanding beyond in-person events, there can be more winners.

“If there’s 100,000 people who want to go to one show and there's 37,000 seats, 70,000 are out,” he said. “You can't fight that. But what we can do is start to give them other opportunities to do things in a different way and actually still participate.”

Jones and Davari both teased that their platforms have some exciting developments in the works, but for now both Token and Tixr are set on making their own space within the industry.

“We simply want to advance this industry and make it more efficient and more pleasurable for fans to buy,” Davari said. “That's it.”