Garvey Spacecraft Selected for STTR Phase I Award to Fund Small Launch Vehicle

Garvey rocket launch in the Mojave. (Credit: Garvey Spacecraft Corporation)
Garvey rocket launch in the Mojave. (Credit: Garvey Spacecraft Corporation)

NASA has selected Garvey Spacecraft Corporation and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) for a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) that will fund research into using 3D additive machining to produce a nanosat launch vehicle.

“The technical innovation proposed here expands upon early research into the viability of additive machining (AM) for liquid rocket engine components and other emerging capabilities to initiate TRL 6 flight test evaluations of candidate applications that could enhance the affordability of a small launch vehicle (SLV) booster stage,” the proposal summary states.

“University of California, San Diego (USCD) has achieved success in applying 3D AM to fabricate a 200 lbf-thrust LOX/kerosene engine. Concurrently, the Garvey Spacecraft Corporation (GSC) team continues to make progress in the development and flight testing of key elements for a future low-cost nanosat launch vehicle (NLV),” the summary adds.

The grant is for six months and up to $125,000. An edited version of the proposal summary is below.

Garvey Spacecraft Corporation
Long Beach, CA

University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA

The Application of 3D Additive Machining to Enhance
the Affordability of a Small Launcher Booster Stage

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 6

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT

The technical innovation proposed here expands upon early research into the viability of additive machining (AM) for liquid rocket engine components and other emerging capabilities to initiate TRL 6 flight test evaluations of candidate applications that could enhance the affordability of a small launch vehicle (SLV) booster stage.

University of California, San Diego (USCD) has achieved success in applying 3D AM to fabricate a 200 lbf-thrust LOX/kerosene engine. Concurrently, the Garvey Spacecraft Corporation (GSC) team continues to make progress in the development and flight testing of key elements for a future low-cost nanosat launch vehicle (NLV). These NASA-sponsored NLV designs, concept of operations (CONOPS) and cost metrics based on actual flight operations now serve as references for evaluating emerging technologies like UCSD’s AM engine(s) to implement an SLV first stage that achieves the aggressive cost, performance and sizing goals specified in the T1.02 subtopic description. This is exactly the same approach that was followed under a previous NASA STTR that successfully demonstrated a TRL 6 for an advanced CMC-lined ablative engine chamber. Phase I flight testing features a subscale host vehicle, while Phase II then follows with an SLV-scale prototype booster.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS

An affordable SLV could be used to launch cubesat and nanosat payloads, either in clusters into low Earth orbit or into high energy trajectories typical of deep space exploration missions.

Typical users include the CubeSat Launch Initiative and the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program.

At the technology level, AM components could improve the subsystem affordability of engines and structural components for both launch systems and spacecraft.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS

The affordable launch system(s) could conduct dedicated missions for Planetary Labs, which recently had 28 of their “Flock 1” CubeSat-class spacecraft delivered as a secondary payload on an Antares rocket to the International Space Station (ISS) for eventual deployment. Skybox Imaging is another candidate commercial SLV customer. NSF, AF Space Command, Army Space and Missile Defense Command and NRO all represent government customers that could eventually engage in commercially-contracted SLV launch operations, much as NASA has pathfinded for ISS re-supply.

TECHNOLOGY TAXONOMY MAPPING

  • Hardware-in-the-Loop Testing
  • Launch Engine/Booster
  • Metallics
  • Pressure & Vacuum Systems
  • Processing Methods
  • Prototyping