Orion Propulsion Developing Rocket Engine for Nanosats

Company tests rocket engine that may launch affordable access to orbit for small satellites
The Huntsville Times

Monday afternoon, in a trailer surrounded by cotton fields just west of Huntsville International Airport, a group gathered to watch the 5-second burn of a ground-breaking if not ground-shaking rocket engine.

Orion Propulsion is developing it for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, which wants a low-cost, on-demand way to loft its new class of small “nanosatellites” into orbit so they don’t have to wait for a piggyback ride into space aboard a larger launch vehicle.

Valves clicked, gases hissed, there was a brief countdown and then came the sound of heat and power and 2,500 pounds of thrust. On the flat-screen monitors inside the trailer an intense, focused rocket tail of blue flame embedded with shimmering “shock diamonds” could be clearly seen.

Then silence. And smiles.

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