After 25 years of designing, developing and testing propulsion systems, Orbital Technologies Corp. (ORBITEC) is ready to sell rocket engines.
In October, the company conducted the second successful test of its Vortex liquid rocket engine. The engine was integrated in a P-15 Prospector rocket designed and built by Garvey Spacecraft Corp. of Long Beach, Calif., and California State University, Long Beach. Now, ORBITEC and its partners, Minneapolis-based Alliant Techsystems, Moog Space and Defense Group of East Aurora, N.Y., Boeing Defense, Space and Security of St. Louis, Denver-based Barber-Nichols Inc. and Concepts NREC of White River Junction, Vt., are prepared to offer variants of that patented propulsion system. Small- to medium-thrust versions could power spacecraft reaction control systems while more powerful models could serve as the upper stage for heavy-lift rockets.
ORBITEC officials believe those engines, which are designed to reduce the price and mass of liquid rockets while increasing their performance, can help to expand space access just as improvements in jet engine technology helped pave the way for widespread air travel. “I see space travel expanding much like air travel did in the mid-1900s,” said Tom Crabb, ORBITEC president. “I would love to see success not only in the suborbital market, but commercial crew transportation, Bigelow space habitats and NASA missions beyond low Earth orbit.”
On March 1, NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland awarded ORBITEC a $745,000 contract to perform systems and cost analysis on a variant of its Vortex design, the VR-3A Vision liquid engine, designed to provide more than 30,000 pounds of thrust to meet future NASA and U.S. Air Force requirements. An engine of that size could replace the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RL-10 upper stage on United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets and offer in-space propulsion for NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System and rockets of similar sizes.
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