Garvey Spacecraft Selected for NASA STTR Agreement

P-19 rocket on Kodiak Island (Credit: Garvey Spacecraft Corporation)
P-19 rocket on Kodiak Island (Credit: Garvey Spacecraft Corporation)

NASA has selected Garvey Spacecraft Corporation for a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I award to develop technology for a new nanosat launch vehicle. The company is working with the University of Alabama in Huntsville on the project.

The award will fund development of a torch-augmented spark igniter for a liquid oxygen/propylene rocket engine to power the two-stage launch vehicle.

“Subsequent application in the upper stages of nanosat launch vehicles will enable multiple in-flight engine restart, a necessity for optimizing orbit insertion for CubeSat-class payloads,” according to the company’s proposal.

Another possible is as “a derivative upper stage now in preliminary development for the DARPA XS-1 experimental space plane,” the proposal said.

Garvey Spacecraft Corporation is involved in Vector Space Systems, which is developing a satellite launch vehicle. The company was announced on Tuesday.

A description of the proposal is below.

Proposal Title: Torch-Augmented Spark Igniter for
Nanosat Launch Vehicle LOX/Propylene Rocket Engine
Research Subtopic Title: Affordable Nano/Micro Launch Propulsion Stages

Small Business Concern
Garvey Spacecraft Corporation
Long Beach, CA

Research Institution
The University of Alabama in Huntsville PRC/OSP
Huntsville, AL

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Mr. Christopher M Bostwick

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 5

Technical Abstract

The technical innovation proposed here is the introduction of torch-augmented spark ignition for high performance liquid oxygen (LOX) / propylene rocket engines now in development for a future two-stage nanosat launch vehicle.

Spark ignition is critical for reliably achieving multiple in-flight restarts of NLV upper stage engines. In addition, this new capability will generate immediate R&D benefits through the streamlining of ongoing LOX/propylene engine testing. By replacing pyrotechnic charges that are the current state-of-the-art method for LOX/propylene engine ignition, spark igniters eliminate the need to install fresh units after each test attempt (a manually intensive and tedious process). Additional operational benefits from eliminating a category of pyrotechnics and ordnance will accrue in logistics and safety.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

In the near-term, the application of this spark igniter technology to static fire testing to replace pyrotechnic devices will improve the efficiency of NASA-sponsored research investigating high performance LOX/propylene rocket engines.

Subsequent application in the upper stages of nanosat launch vehicles will enable multiple in-flight engine restart, a necessity for optimizing orbit insertion for CubeSat-class payloads.

Typical program users that will benefit from this capability include the CubeSat Launch Initiative and the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

A two-stage nanosat launch vehicle now in development by GSC which features LOX/propylene propulsion will benefit directly with the application of this spark ignition technology in both stages.

Another candidate application is a derivative upper stage now in preliminary development for the DARPA XS-1 experimental space plane.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Fuels/Propellants
  • Launch Engine/Booster