Ventions LLC Selected for 2 SBIR Awards

Continuing our look at NASA’s recent SBIR selections, we will examine two awards to Ventions, LLC, a small San Francisco-based R&D company. The company applied for funding for the development of a two-stage launch vehicle for nanosats and cubesats, and for a LOX-cooled propulsion system for sample return missions.

Descriptions of the two projects follow after the break.

Ventions, LLC
San Francisco, CA

SUBTOPIC TITLE: Nano/Small Sat Launch Vehicle Technology
PROPOSAL TITLE: A High-Payload Fraction, Pump-Fed, 2-Stage Nano Launch Vehicle

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT

Ventions proposes the development of a pump-fed, 2-stage nano launch vehicle for low-cost on-demand placement of cube and nano-satellites into LEO.

The proposed vehicle uses high T/W and high Isp pump-fed engines that operate at high chamber pressures without the weight penalty of high pressure tanks, thereby realizing payload fractions in the 1-2% range.

Ventions has already completed several component-level demonstrations in the area, and is proposing additional development of the stage separation mechanisms, payload fairing and main engine gimbal as part of the Phase I effort.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS

The proposed nano launch vehicle is aimed at providing low-cost and on-demand insertion of NASA cube- and nano-satellites into LEO as primary payloads. This will change the current model of launching such satellites as secondary payloads (which are often constrained by requirements of the primary payload), thereby extending this capability to a wider range of NASA experimental missions requiring on-demand and low-cost insertion into specific orbits.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS

Non-NASA applications for the same will include DoD and military missions requiring rapid on-demand access to space from anywhere in the world (based on ground or air-launch), as well as university and research satellites.

Additionally, the small-scale thrust chamber assemblies and turbomachinery technology components developed for the launch vehicle are also expected to have widespread applications in other in-space propulsion systems, upper stages, and orbital insertion / maneuvering thrusters, etc.

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

Begin: 2
End: 3

Ventions LLC
San Francisco, CA

SUBTOPIC TITLE: Spacecraft Technology for Sample Return Missions
PROPOSAL TITLE: A LOX-Cooled, Pump-Fed Rocket Engine for Sample Return Applications

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT

To-date, the realization of small-scale, high-performance propulsion systems for challenging in-space maneuvers requiring high delta-V and acceleration over a short period of time (i.e. sample return), has largely been limited by the lack of regeneratively-cooled thrust chamber assemblies and turbopumps in the 100-1,000lbf thrust class. Ventions proposes to overcome this limitation by developing a 500lbf, LOX-cooled, pump-fed engine for in-space propulsion applications. The Phase I effort will focus on: 1. Overall design of a 500lbf engine; 2. Detailed design and fabrication of a sub-scale, LOX-cooled main combustion chamber; and 3. Experimental hot-fire testing of a LOX / IPA combustion chamber assembly to evaluate cooling channel performance and LOX quality at the injector inlet.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS

The propulsion system proposed herein represents a low-cost technology that can be integrated into a number of spacecraft designs with the ultimate goal of providing high-performance liquid bipropellant rocket engines for challenging in-space missions. The use of LOX for regenerative cooling of the main combustion chamber enables propellant combinations, engine cycles and / or operating points not currently available for in-space missions. The availability of on-board pressurization for higher chamber pressure operation (without the excessive weight penalty of propellant storage tanks), can further result in a significant increase in the capability for missions requiring large Delta-V over a short period (such as sample return, powered landings and ascent, orbit insertion and change, etc.), thereby easing implementation of space borne operations through a combination of reduced size, weight, improved reliability and lower cost.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS

Non-NASA commercial applications include:

  1. Upper stage propulsion.
  2. Apogee kick motors for small- and medium-scale
    spacecraft.
  3. Standalone non-aerospace applications of the pump technology in industrial and desalination settings for water and cryogenics, and as an alternative to other high-pressure liquid pumps.

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

Begin: 2
End: 3