Vaya Space Takes Recycling Out of This World
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Vaya Space Takes Recycling Out of This World

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Mockup of Vaya Space's Dauntless.

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Vaya Space's 3D printer that prints the rocket fuel.

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Vaya Space engineers speak to students.

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Vaya Space team at a beach cleanup.

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By using recycled plastics like high density polyethylene for its rocket engines, Vaya takes waste off the planet safely.

How many bottle caps does it take to launch a rocket?

If you’re Vaya Space, that answer is 9 tons’ worth, although they can use detergent bottles and other heavy plastics, too.

Located in Cocoa, Vaya Space is a hybrid rocket company whose engines use liquid oxygen and HDPE recycled plastics.

HDPE, or high-density polyethylene, is the thicker plastic found in water bottle caps, shampoo bottles, or pipes. Each year, according to, the world uses 30 million metric tons of HDPE — enough to cover Merritt Island more than 200 times. Most of this plastic ends up in landfills, where it can take 400 years to degrade. 

Vaya’s revolutionary technology uses that plastic as rocket fuel and sends it into space, converting it to water vapor and a small amount of carbon dioxide in a process that’s cleaner than most conventional rocket engines.

In 2022, Vaya received the International Green Apple Environment Award and was named a Global Green World Ambassador — the first rocket company to receive such an honor.

“Vaya is immensely proud that our technology addresses the critical issues of plastic pollution and environmental sustainability while it expands access to space,” said CEO Kevin Lowdermilk.

Vaya is working toward launching its Dauntless rocket from Launch Complex 13 around 2026. With its simplified design, safer engine fuels — half of it is just plastic, after all — and lower cost, it plans to make a big impact in the small satellite launch sector.

Even so, their engines have caught the interest of the defense industry.

“Vaya’s technologies are revolutionary in performance, cost, and sustainability with their ability to remove plastic from the planet. I look forward to facilitating the investment in them to make a difference for our country and for humankind,” said retired Gen. Robert Abrams.

Vaya has won the trust of the community as well. It’s the only rocket company sanctioned by the City of Cocoa to test its rockets in the community. Thus far, they’ve had over a hundred successful tests of engines of varying sizes.

“The City of Cocoa has embraced Vaya Space,” said Cocoa Mayor Michael C. Blake. “They have positioned themselves as a hub for innovation and progress in the space industry. Their growth over the last few years has brought new jobs, investment opportunities, and a surge in local business activity.”

Vaya, in turn, is highly active in the community. In addition to making environmentally friendly rockets, they participate each year in the Space Coast beach cleanups, Keep Brevard Beautiful, and the Intercoastal Cleanup and Ocean Conservatory. 

They also work with community organizations to educate and inspire young engineers. They work with Endeavor Elementary School and participate in the Michaelis Foundation, KSC’s International Space Academy, and science days at local schools. They also host podcasts with the American Space Museum. Vaya is a key member of the Space Coast Consortium Apprenticeship Program, and Vaya’s women engineers attend events specifically to promote women in STEM industries.

Vaya came to Cocoa in 2017 with an eye for the future of space, the community, and the planet, and it’s working hard to fulfill its vision.

Learn More

Facebook: /VayaSpace 
X: @vayaspace 
Instagram: @vayaspace 
Vaya’s podcasts: 

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