It was a busy year for a number of commercial space companies. While most of them made considerable progress, the news wasn’t all good.
A Dream Deferred
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) had a pretty rough year, losing out on two major contracts and laying off more than 100 employees.
On a Friday in May, just as everyone was preparing for the long Memorial Day weekend, Virgin Galactic announced it was dumping the hybrid rubber motor SNC developed for SpaceShipTwo in favor of a hybrid nylon one produced by Scaled Composites.
NASA has selected Ventions, LLC of San Francisco, Calif., for two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I awards, with both projects involving advanced propulsion systems for spacecraft.
Under one contract, Ventions would develop a low-cost, high-performance propulsion system for use on CubeSats. The other project involves the development of on-board pressurization systems for Mars sample return missions.
Ventions 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.
DARPA has awarded six contracts for its Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, which is designed to produce a rocket capable of launching a 100-pound satellite into low Earth orbit for less than $1 million. Winners include Virgin Galactic, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrup Grumman.
Continuing our look at NASA’s recent SBIR selections, we will examine two awards to Ventions, LLC, a small San Francisco-based R&D company. The company applied for funding for the development of a two-stage launch vehicle for nanosats and cubesats, and for a LOX-cooled propulsion system for sample return missions.
Descriptions of the two projects follow after the break.