Ventions Selected for 2 SBIR Phase I Contracts

Engine hot fire (Credit: Ventions)
Engine hot fire (Credit: Ventions)

NASA has selected Ventions, LLC of San Francisco for two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I awards to develop propulsion systems for use in space and on other worlds.

One proposal involves the development of small-scale, methane-fueled reaction control engines for in-space propulsion.

“The 50lbf reaction control engines proposed herein can readily be scaled up or down to thrusts in the 10-250lbf range, hence, it is expected to have numerous applications for NASA missions,” according to the proposal. “This is particularly true if the primary propulsion for the spacecraft is also LOX/Methane based, thereby allowing for the secondary RCE propulsion to tap off the main tankage and/or residuals.

“Specific examples of these applications are likely to include reaction control for human-rated spacecraft, and for lander and ascent vehicles for planetary or lunar missions (either human or large science spacecraft/rovers),” the proposal states. “Additionally, the technology is also suitable for primary ascent or descent propulsion for smaller spacecraft missions such as lunar landers, Mars hoppers, or the like thereof.”

The second project is a high performance, pump-fed propulsion system for a Mars ascent vehicle.
“To-date, the realization of high-performance liquid bipropellant rocket engines for ascent vehicle and sample return applications has largely been hindered by the inability to obtain “on-board” pressurization through a light-weight and low-complexity pump,” the proposal states. “Ventions seeks to fulfill this critical need by optimizing a MON-30 electric pump previously built under an earlier NASA SBIR to offer further efficiency improvements, and to provide a competitive liquid bipropellant propulsion system as an alternative to the existing solid / hybrid propellant designs for a Mars Ascent Vehicle.”

Phase I feasibility studies are for six months and a maximum of $125,000. Firms that successfully complete this phase are eligible to submit a proposal for Phase II proposal, during which selectees will expand on the results of the developments in Phase I. Phase III awards examine the commercialization of Phase II results and requires the use of private sector, non-SBIR, funding.

The proposals are below.

Small-Scale, Methane-Fueled Reaction Control Engines for In-Space Propulsion
Subtopic: In-Space Chemical Propulsion

Ventions, LLC
San Francisco, CA

Principal Investigator/Program Manager
Dr. Adam Londo

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 4

Technical Abstract

Given increasing interest in high-performance, Methane-fueled reaction control engines in the 5-100lbf thrust class, Ventions proposes the design, fabrication and hot-fire testing of a nominal 50lbf engine that is batch fabricated in a low-cost manner using a novel manufacturing process. The proposed approach leverages several years of DARPA and NASA funded work by Ventions in the successful development and ground / flight testing of such configurations, and allows for the realization of complex regenerative cooling passages and injector geometries previously unattainable by conventional fabrication methodologies.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

The 50lbf reaction control engines proposed herein can readily be scaled up or down to thrusts in the 10-250lbf range, hence, it is expected to have numerous applications for NASA missions. This is particularly true if the primary propulsion for the spacecraft is also LOX / Methane based, thereby allowing for the secondary RCE propulsion to tap off the main tankage and / or residuals. Specific examples of these applications are likely to include reaction control for human-rated spacecraft, and for lander and ascent vehicles for planetary or lunar missions (either human or large science spacecraft / rovers). Additionally, the technology is also suitable for primary ascent or descent propulsion for smaller spacecraft missions such as lunar landers, Mars hoppers, or the like thereof.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

Beyond NASA missions, one can envision several non-NASA applications in the ever-growing world of commercial space. Specific examples of such commercial space missions are likely to include reaction / attitude control for large booster stages and nano launch vehicles, as well upper stage or orbit insertion propulsion. Additionally, beyond space applications, the proposed technology is also applicable in terrestrial energy markets utilizing LNG in “closed” LNG / Oxygen cycles to eliminate NOX production and simplify CO2 capture and sequestration.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Maneuvering/Stationkeeping/Attitude Control Devices

High-Performance, Pump-Fed Propulsion for Mars Ascent Vehicle Applications
Subtopic: Spacecraft Technology for Sample Return Missions

Ventions, LLC
San Francisco, CA

Principal Investigator/Program Manager
Dr. Adam P London

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 4

Technical Abstract

To-date, the realization of high-performance liquid bipropellant rocket engines for ascent vehicle and sample return applications has largely been hindered by the inability to obtain “on-board” pressurization through a light-weight and low-complexity pump. Ventions seeks to fulfill this critical need by optimizing a MON-30 electric pump previously built under an earlier NASA SBIR to offer further efficiency improvements, and to provide a competitive liquid bipropellant propulsion system as an alternative to the existing solid / hybrid propellant designs for a Mars Ascent Vehicle.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

While the proposed pump-fed propulsion system has direct applications for Mars Ascent Vehicles and sample return missions, the enabling technology proposed herein overcomes a key challenge of providing on-board pressurization at the small-scale, thereby enabling a new generation liquid bipropellant rocket engines in the 100-5,000lbf thrust class, with a T/W ratio in excess of 100, and a vacuum Isp >300sec. Other NASA applications for such high-performance propulsion systems are therefore also likely to include lunar ascent / descent missions (precursor rovers, cargo, etc.), Near-Earth-Object (NEO) missions and outer planet orbit capture and insertion.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

Beyond NASA applications, the proposed high-performance pumps are expected to have wide relevance to upper stage propulsion technology for small commercial launch vehicles, advanced Department of Defense vehicles such as XS-1, commercial lander missions, orbit insertion engines for commercial satellites, and apogee kick motors for orbit circularization of commercial satellites.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Launch Engine/Booster
  • Spacecraft Main Engine