Ventions Awarded NASA SBIR Funding for Nano-sat Launcher

NASA LOGOVentions LLC of San Francisco has been selected for a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) worth up to $200,000 to develop an engine for a new launch vehicle capable of delivering nano- and micro-satellites into low Earth orbit.

The goal is to produce a new low-cost rocket capable of launching these satellites into orbit as primary payloads. Currently, these tiny satellites are launched as secondary payloads on much larger vehicles, limiting the number that can be placed in space and requiring much longer wait times.

In 2011, Ventions received two NASA SBIR Phase I awards and a separate SBIR from the Missile Defense Agency, all for propulsion work on launch vehicles. Last year, the company received separate contracts from DARPA in support of launch vehicle development and the ALASA program, which aims to develop an air-launch system capable of deploying payloads weighing 100 lbs. (46 kg) into orbit for under $1 million.

Ventions is the second company developing a nano-sat launcher to be selected for an award under this round of SBIR Phase I awards. Garvey Spacecraft Corporation of Long Beach, Calif., also was selected for up to $200,000 in funding to develop its own launch vehicle.

A summary of Ventions’ proposal follows.

PROPOSAL SUMMARY

PROPOSAL TITLE: Regeneratively-Cooled, Pump-Fed Propulsion Technology for Nano/Micro Satellite Launch Vehicles

SUBTOPIC TITLE: Nano/Micro Satellite Launch Vehicle Technology

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN
Ventions, LLC
San Francisco, CA

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER
Adam P London

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

Begin: 4
End: 5

AWARD TYPE: SBIR SELECT PHASE I

MAXIMUM VALUE: $200,000

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 Isp pump-fed engines that operate at chamber pressures >750psi 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 optimization / testing of a 5,000lbf LOX / RP-1 turbopump-fed engine as part of this Phase I in-order to demonstrate a flight-ready 1st stage propulsion system.

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 of small satellites 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.

TECHNOLOGY TAXONOMY MAPPING

Cryogenic/Fluid Systems
Fuels/Propellants
Launch Engine/Booster
Spacecraft Design, Construction, Testing, & Performance (see also Engineering; Testing & Evaluation)
Spacecraft Main Engine
Vehicles (see also Autonomous Systems)