Interorbital Systems Selected for NASA SBIR Award

Interorbital Systems of Mojave has been selected for NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award. The company will use the funding to help develop its Common Propulsion Module (CPM) for the Neptune rocket, which is aimed at bringing down the cost of launching nanosats. No amount is mentioned, but SBIR agreements are typically made for six months for amounts as high as $125,000. The award is contingent upon successful contract negotiations.

Read a description of the work after the break.

PROPOSAL TITLE: Neptune modular rockets for breakthrough low-cost space access


Interorbital Systems is developing a new generation of modular, low-cost, rapid-response space launch vehicles. Interorbital modular rockets core element is the Common Propulsion Module (CPM). The CPM is a liquid rocket engine, propellant and pressurization section and aerodynamic faring integrated into a self-contained module. The liquid rocket engine is ablatively cooled and operates in a blowdown pressurization mode using low-cost, storable hypergolic propellants. Interorbital has successfully static test fired a 4,500 lb thrust CPM main engine demonstrating combustion stability and throttling capability.

Interorbital modular rocket systems were developed under the Minimum Cost Design paradigm and will deliver breakthrough cost reductions in space access. Cost reductions in propulsion are achieved by elimination of complex pressurization, ignition components, cooling, and propellant infrastructure normally associated with typical liquid rocket technology. Further cost reductions in the space launch value chain are attained by utilizing commercially available components and developing simplified manufacturing and operations minimizing need for capital intensive infrastructure and highly skilled labor. These unprecedented reductions in space access costs do not sacrifice performance or reliability.

CPM technology is scalable and readily configurable to suit numerous suborbital or orbital mission profiles. CPMs may be arrayed as launch vehicle first stage boosters or as unitary elements for sustainer and upper stages. Interorbital modular rockets are uniquely suited to support the emerging nanosatellite market while offering an American alternative for existing public and private sector space access requirements.


Interorbital believes its modular rocket technology is a low-cost, reliable and flexible suborbital and orbital workhorse for various NASA programs. A single CPM adapted as a rocket, such as the flight-ready Interorbital CPMTV, can be used as an ultra low-cost entry level rocket vehicle for educational programs. The Interorbital SR145 rocket under development offers order of magnitude cost reduction for sounding rockets missions while providing a benign operating environment for payloads solid rocket motor vehicles cannot provide. The logical scaling of Interorbital CPM technology to its nine module space launch vehicle under development will expand space access opportunities for NASA programs such as Small Satellite Subsystems Technology Program (SSST), Edison Small Satellite Demonstrations Missions Program or Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa).


Interorbital has sold out the inaugural co-manifest (32 picosatellites and 4 CubeSats) of its NEPTUNE rocket from sales of its TubeSat Kit plus Launch Package and CubeSat projects. The list of paid clients spans the public and private sectors diverse as academic research institutions, U.S. government entities and individuals pursuing space art projects. This fact and ongoing sales for NEPTUNE mission two is ample evidence of an emerging nanosatellite market and acute desire for low-cost space access. Interorbital believes the same launch capacity employed for NASA requirements will be welcome by non-NASA clients.

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:

Begin: 4
End: 6