Frontier Aerospace Selected for NASA Award to Develop Deep Space Thruster Using MON-25/MMH Propellant

Frontier Aerospace and Astrobotic team to develop MON-25/MMH thruster for Peregrine Moon landing

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Astrobotic/ Frontier Aerospace PR)  Frontier Aerospace Corporation is pleased to announce their selection by NASA’s Space Technology and Mission Directorate (STMD) for a “Tipping Point” award to provide flight qualification of Frontier’s Deep Space Engine (DSE) that utilizes MON-25/MMH propellant. The DSE engine will enable the design of smaller and less expensive propulsion systems for spacecraft as a result of the lower temperature freezing characteristics of MON-25/MMH propellant.

Frontier teamed with Astrobotic of Pittsburgh, PA, to win the award, with Frontier to provide five DSE thrusters under the program for use in Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander planned for launch at the end of 2020. The DSE thrusters will be integrated into a propulsion system provided by Dynetics of Huntsville, AL, for trans-lunar injection, several Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) decelerations, a breaking maneuver, and finally a powered descent to the lunar surface.

“We are very excited to be selected for this award and to be a part of Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander mission,” said Jim McKinnon, President of Frontier Aerospace.

“Astrobotic is proud to support Frontier in the development of the next generation of deep space engines.  These engines are ideally suited to power our Peregrine Lunar Lander and we are excited to prove their performance capabilities using our spacecraft.  We look forward to working closely with Frontier on a successful first mission,” said Sharad Bhaskaran, Mission Director at Astrobotic.

Frontier’s use of MON-25/MMH propellant in their DSE thruster design was key for the award selection. The lower freezing point of MON-25/MMH propellant in comparison to typical propellants will enable propulsion systems with lower power requirements which translate to smaller and less expensive spacecraft systems.

“The DSE thruster fills a significant need in the commercial marketplace. Potential uses include long-duration science missions to asteroids, Mars, Europa and other exomoons, and lunar landers, as well as short-duration missions for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA),” said McKinnon.

About Frontier Aerospace Corporation:

Frontier Aerospace Corporation designs, develops, and tests innovative space and launch systems. Focusing primarily in the areas of booster rocket engine components, reaction control thrusters, attitude control propulsion systems and deep space exploration thrusters, we have the experience, resources, partnerships and industry contacts necessary to see complex projects through. Frontier has a proven philosophy for propulsion development that produces reliable, tested designs. Frontier is located in Simi Valley, California near Los Angeles.

About Astrobotic:

Astrobotic Technology, Inc. is a lunar logistics company that delivers payloads to the Moon for companies, governments, universities, non-profits, and individuals. The company’s spacecraft accommodates multiple customer payloads on a single flight, offering flexibility at an industry-defining low price of $1.2 million per kilogram. Astrobotic is an official partner with NASA through the NASA Lunar CATALYST program, has 28 prior and ongoing NASA contracts, a commercial partnership with Airbus DS, a corporate sponsorship with DHL, 12 deals for its first mission to the Moon, and 130 customer payloads in the pipeline for upcoming missions. Astrobotic was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA.

  • Congrats. It’ll be interesting to see where this technology goes!

  • windbourne

    It is good to push things to the tipping point, but we also need to get the demand going on these.

  • I think that is probably THE problem that needs to be solved in space development right now. We can SUPPLY unlimited amounts of thrusters, satellites, rockets, whatever – but there isn’t the DEMAND for them yet.

  • windbourne

    And it will not be there for those until private space stations AND lunar trips take off.

    We need to stimulate leo private space stations, and fastest way is first get 3-4 private space stations going while at same time landing small robotic missions on the poles.

    I have zero doubt that nearly every nation that wants on the moon and will start a space unit to go to the moon.

  • My perception is that we should be doing those things, but we ought to dampen our enthusiasm for how quickly demand follows supply. For lunar landings/bases we have only 2 or 3 modern datapoints: ESA is willing to fund the service module of a Moon spacecraft: Orion (regardless of feelings towards Orion, the money and effort constitute a legitimate indication of national goals), ISS nations willing to fund the extension of ISS capabilities to the Moon: LOP-G (again, it’s a valid data point even if we debate its merits) and Golden Spike being unable to attract customers for lunar landings at $1.5B per. That last one is particularly useful because it shows what countries AREN’T willing to fund. If governments are just interested in space as jobs program, it’s pretty clear they want the jobs in THEIR COUNTRIES. The prestige of landing on the Moon and having a national hero seems to not be worth $1.5B per shot. If those space stations and lunar bases can find customers: more power to them, but we have some recent cautionary tales to remind us there are more dead ends than yellow bricks roads.

  • windbourne

    Golden spike was never going to get off the ground. For them, it was all about using A gov for funding.
    The correct way is to have the whole chain in place. IOW, from launch to lander to base.
    Then various gov come in and either pay for the whole trip, or buy part, and provide the missing part.
    For example, if private space put a base on moon, and offer full transportation from earth surface to the base, living quarters, etc, then say Europe might might buy the full thing except at, they will develop sending cargo to the lunar surface. In addition, they might develop robotics for working there.
    NASA might choose to provide their own HSF to low lunar orbit where they catch private lander, etc.

    IOW, new space fills in all the gaps, while the gov pay for the services provided .