Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

SpaceDev funded for Orbital Transfer Vehicle motor firings
Posted: April 9, 2000

Artist's concept of SpaceDev satellite around the Moon. Photo: SpaceDev
SpaceDev, Inc., the world's first commercial space exploration and development company, has been informed by the California Space and Technology Alliance (CSTA) that the company has been competitively selected to receive a grant to perform test firings of SpaceDev's hybrid rocket motors, which are designed to power SpaceDev's Orbital Transfer Vehicle.

In 1999, SpaceDev began working on conceptual and preliminary designs of an inexpensive space vehicle that would be capable of boosting secondary payloads into longer-life orbits, and that could maneuver on-orbit for such possibilities as satellite inspection, rendezvous, docking and moving, and refueling. The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) awarded SpaceDev funds to further develop SpaceDev concepts for an Orbital Transfer Vehicle. Work on the NRO project was completed this March.

Commenting on the grant, Charlie Lloyd, CEO of SpaceDev's ISS subsidiary said, "We appreciate the State of California supporting this technology. This grant helps confirm SpaceDev's corporate direction and the value of our commercial space products as we move forward to market these innovative new technologies to our diverse customer base."

SpaceDev's unique and low-cost design includes motor fuel that is solid, inert and safe, and oxidizer that is gaseous and self-pressurizing at room temperature. This elegantly simple design results in only one moving part, a valve, and supports a major mission benefit the OTV, which is long-term storability, on the ground and on-orbit. The OTV is restartable, throttleable, and relatively clean-burning because its fuel and oxidizer are based primarily on hydrocarbons, nitrogen and oxygen. Current versions are designed to fit on commercial launch vehicles that inexpensively carry small secondary spacecraft to earth orbit. The smallest SpaceDev OTV weighs 25 kg. and the largest 100 kg. OTV-compatible launch vehicles include the Ariane 4 and 5, the Boeing Delta 2, the Orbital Sciences Corporation Pegasus, and the Shuttle Hitchhiker and SHELS payload areas.

Frank Macklin, SpaceDev's Director of Engineer for the hybrid technology work said, "We are thrilled with this CSTA award because it comes at a great time for SpaceDev. With the encouragement of the NRO, we have submitted multiple additional proposals for significant follow-on Orbital Transfer Vehicle (OTV) work, and the CSTA grant fills the gap and helps us maintain important momentum with this innovative new space product. We were confident that our strategy of acquiring the patent and intellectual rights to the AMROC hybrid motor technology would pay off -- it just needed a jump-start to show that test results will clearly demonstrate the benefits of this promising technology -- and now we're ready to start assembly of our motors."

CSTA, California's Spaceport Authority, announced the decisions made by Lon Hatamiya, secretary of the California Trade and Commerce Agency. Speaking of the award to SpaceDev, CSTA executive director Andrea Seastrand said, "This year's increased number of grant applications is a reflection of the growing interest in and participation of California companies in the expanding international space marketplace." SpaceDev was one of nine grantees out of 33 applicants.

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