One of the biggest challenges for the aerospace industry is to reduce launch costs. Some companies, such as SpaceX and Rocket Lab, believe that the way to achieve this is to reuse rockets. Others, like Astra, opt for daily releases. Now, a Ukrainian startup has just put an unusual proposal on the table: to use a small rocket that consumes itself as fuel.
Despite the Russian invasion, Promin Aerospace continues with the development of its innovative satellite launch system that seeks to “democratize the launch of payloads into space for organizations, individuals and countries.” During the day, as collected SpaceNewsthe research team works in the Dnipro laboratory, but outside of their working hours they do their best to protect their families from the war.
A launch technology never seen before
Space.com explains that the “self-eating rocket” was the brainchild of Vitaliy Yemets, co-founder and current engineer at Promin Aerospace. This solution, if successful, could not only reduce launch costs, but also organize missions in a matter of days, when several months or years in advance are currently required, and address the growing problem of space debriswhich has made even the private sector get involved to control it.
The rocket devised by Promin Aerospace will work with traditional fuel and also with solid fuel. The company points out that, thanks to a “patented method of gasification and subsequent combustion”, part of the structure of the rocket will be consumed during the flight, which will mean that “no debris remains in orbit”.
Over the last few months, the company has carried out seven laboratory tests in which it has verified that its technology “works reliably”. They first tried different variations of the engine and nozzle design, and recently they did the same at different types and pressures with a new type of polymer fuel and oxidizer (the oxidizing agent that promotes combustion).
For now, as we can see in the image, the experiments have been carried out on a small scale. The researchers use multiple sensors to monitor temperatures in different areas of the system and pressure gauges to calculate pressure. For now, not part of a rocket is consumed, but a few small solid fuel rods they are carefully inserted into a 3D printed gasifier.
After a first round of financing and awaiting the second, Promin Aerospace plans to continue expanding its team —in the middle of the invasion they hired several engineers— to continue testing to improve the concept. His work, as they explainranges from scientific research to complete rocket design, which is very different from what other companies in the aerospace sector offer.
Promin Aerospace wants to put 3 kg nanosatellites into orbit
While firms like SpaceX and Rocket Lab offer to put payloads into orbit of 200 and 300 kilos For $1.1 and $7.5 million respectively, the Ukrainian startup firm wants to focus on small nanosatellites. The idea is that the complete launch system has a weight of about 100 kilos, can put 3 kg payload in orbit and is very cheap to operate. Depending on its configuration, it may have a height of between four and eight meters, a diameter between 0.2 and 0.45 meters.
While there is still plenty of other testing to be done before this technology is ready, the company is confident it will make its mark. first suborbital test in 2023 and its first trade mission the same year. Then they will go further: they plan to make orbital launches. Promin Aerospace plans to operate from two launch platforms: from the Azores Islands, with the Atlantic Spaceport Consortium, or from Scotland, through Spaceport 1 in the United Kingdom.
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