Rocket Crafters may no longer be crafting rockets

Rocket Crafters spaceplane

An illustration of an unidentified Rocket Crafters spaceplane design hosted on the company’s website. (credit: Rocket Crafters, Inc.)

One of the lesser known, and more quixotic, companies in the NewSpace field in recent years has been Rocket Crafters. The Utah-based company entered the field a few years ago with plans to develop hybrid rocket motors and vehicles that would use them, including suborbital spaceplanes. The company, though, disclosed few details about its development efforts and plans beyond its rather basic website.

That did not stop the company from signing agreements with spaceports and local governments eager to attract a part of the commercial spaceflight industry. In July 2012, Rocket Crafters and local officials announced a deal to establish the company’s corporate headquarters in Titusville, Florida, on the state’s “Space Coast” near Cape Canaveral. The company promised to create up to 1,300 fulltime jobs there and invest $72 million into facilities at the Space Coast Regional Airport, just across the Indian River from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Local officials proposed getting an FAA spaceport license for the airport to allow Rocket Crafters to perform suborbital flights there. In return, the company received “a State of Florida Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund (QTI) and workforce incentives,” according to the Space Florida announcement, and even a welcome from KSC officials, who were not involved in the deal but wanted to talk with Rocket Crafters about “how Kennedy’s unique assets and technical capabilities may be made available to enable their success.”

There has been, though, little public activity from Rocket Crafters since that July 2012 announcement, beyond an October 2012 announcement of a memorandum of understanding between the company and Spaceport Colorado, a proposed spaceport at the existing Front Range Airport east of Denver. That stated the company was interested in flying out of the spaceport, including test flights between the spaceport and what the company called the Neil Armstrong “International Air & Space Center” in Titusville. Rocket Crafters also proposed creating up to 80 fulltime jobs at the Colorado site, in addition to its activities in Florida.

In those earlier statements, Rocket Crafters officials said those job figures were its long-term goals, that would take several years to realize. But as the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times reported Friday, the company’s plans have been slow to take off, and may not do so at all. Rocket Crafters vice president Eric Witcher said the company currently has only two employees in Florida, and “has abandoned plans to create a rocket that can transport cargo and humans into space.” It wasn’t clear from the article what the company would do instead of developing suborbital or orbital vehicles; one possibility would be to focus on its rocket motor technology for other applications.

“We may or may not be in over our heads,” Witcher told the papers. With very little to show for what progress it has made to date, many observers may not share that sense of uncertainty.

8 comments to Rocket Crafters may no longer be crafting rockets

  • Eric M. Witcher

    Mr. Faust –

    I read, with interest, your article about Space Crafters, Inc. as written in the December 7, 2013 in NewSpace Journal. It is unfortunate that the Tampa Bay Times misrepresented Rocket Crafters, Inc in their article, please allow me to give you additional information that will augment your readers understanding of our company.

    Our product development plans have matured as we have gained more knowledge about the evolving commercial space market. As told to the reporter, we are advancing our Sidereus spaceplane design to carry an upper-stage with small payload to low Earth orbit. We started this work almost a year ago. We have not abandoned our plans to ultimately develop suborbital passenger and cargo carrying transportation flight vehicles. As you know, in this business you need to start small before scaling up just as SpaceX has done.

    In a leap of faith that the facilities we require to begin operations in Titusville could be met within a reasonable period of time, we elected to establish an office at the Space Coast Regional Airport in August of this year. We now have 2 employees based in Florida and have started interviewing candidates for several engineering positions. Our 7-year projections for up to 1,300 local jobs remains a viable forecast.

    We also sent out a press release to local media regarding our plans to pursue the DARPA XS-1 Program. If you wish a copy of our recent company newsletter please contact me. I think you will agree that our company continues to make progress toward its goals.

    If you have any further questions of Rocket Crafters, Inc. please feel free to give me a call.


    Eric M. Witcher
    Vice President, Corporate Operations
    (321) 427-1917

  • Jeff Foust

    Mr. Witcher,

    Thanks for your comments. I hope your media relations office is similarly helpful in answering the questions I submitted about the article in questions last Friday, and again on Monday; I have not yet received a response from company officials to either message.

  • Amanda Foo

    Sorry if this sounds silly, but why don’t you just send the questions to Mr. Witcher. Looks like he gave you his direct contact information. I notice media relations usually takes awhile, but that’s just my personal experience.

    CHEERS! Amanda

  • sara

    did you know he stole all of his technical info from a man dying of brain cancer. Not Ron Jone’s ideas at all. He is also not paying the family of the man any royalties on his ideas. Such a shame.

    good luck to all!!

  • matt

    If there are two employees in Florida, might that not be VP Witcher and President/CTO Ron Jones? They plan to have a 33-acre complex built by 2014, and 1300 employees by 2017, according to this article:

  • Ronald Jones

    Dear Mr. Foust,

    It was just brought to my attention that you have not published my responses to your earlier questions. Please check your inbox, but these were mailed to you several weeks ago. If you would like me to re-send, please advise.

    I normally do not respond to bloggers on this or other sites who make inflammatory and untrue statements about me or my company. However, in this case I feel obligated to set the record straight. First, the technology that I have licensed to Rocket Crafters involves innovations in both advanced composites and hybrid rocket technologies. The first is patented and the second is patent-pending. Both were solely invented by me after years of investigation and hard work. For the record, I have never collaborated with anyone in my research who was dying of brain cancer.

    Inventors who have had some commercial success and have become something of public figures often find themselves open to attack from people who they have never met, people who have no idea what they are talking about, and former associates who…well, just have an ax to grind. My advise, especially those whose work is considered industry disruptive, is to grow a thick skin in this age of social media and anonymous commentary.

    Regarding Rocket Crafters’ plans to build facilities and its hiring plans, the responses that I provided you some weeks ago are still valid. However, companies like ours must be nimble and willing to adjust quickly to changing circumstances and opportunities. Even so, we will attempt to do a better job in the future to keep the press, including your news site, up to date on our progress, announcements and plans.


    Ronald Jones
    President and Chief Technology Officer
    Rocket Crafters, Inc.

    • Jeff Foust

      I’ve contacted Mr. Jones by email, but just wanted to make clear to any readers who may be interested that we have not published any responses from Rocket Crafters because we have not received any responses from Mr. Jones or other company officials. I appreciate his concerns about setting the record straight and hope he and his colleague can provide more information about the company and its plans.

  • Gosh, Ron told me the same story too. He knew a man who was a professor at a university in California I believe. He had an issue with an invention and for 2 years Ron helped solve the problems in the invention. The man died of cancer right before Ron finished. Ron claimed all the work as his own and has continued to. It was a very interesting story.

    Hurts when you fall on your face………… should have know this would come back to bite you in the ass someday.

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