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Six weeks from napkin drawings to hardware

Published by Robin on Fri Sep 2, 2005 5:22 am
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September 1, 2005, Huntsville, AL: Orion Propulsion, Inc. announced that they have successfully completed the first series of tests on a 100lbf Oxygen/ Methane RCS thruster. Orion was tasked to design, manufacture, and test this thruster, which accommodated an OPI developed acoustic igniter and spark igniter. In six weeks time, Orion has progressed from napkin drawings to testing hardware.

Orion’s customer, Gary C. Hudson, CEO of HMX stated, “We’ve been wanting to add a gas-gas space qualified propulsion system to our capability for some time, and teaming up with Orion allowed us to greatly accelerate our plans due to their proven ability to support our rapid prototyping program. This is just the first of many joint projects we intend to pursue, which makes our collaboration even more exciting.”

This engine has many advantages in both the current and upcoming space markets. These benefits include: reusability, affordability, high performance, environmentally friendly, use in Mars In-Situ Methane missions, and storage on long-term orbit missions.

Testing occurred at Orion’s facility near Huntsville, AL. Over 40 firings were performed with a total of 90 seconds testing time. In the near future, Orion and HMX plan to jointly develop a product line based on this flexible engine design, with the first application to be the t/Space CXV human spaceflight vehicle for NASA. The engine will also be qualified for a variety of easily stored propellants, including: propane/ nitrous oxide, ethane/ nitrous oxide, and hydrogen/ oxygen. In addition, preliminary tests have started for the thruster with a space nozzle.

Orion Propulsion is a small and innovative aerospace company in Madison, Alabama, that is committed affordable aerospace solutions. The Orion Propulsion team has over 30 years of experience in the aerospace industry. Orion Propulsion specializes in hot and cold testing of rocket system devices. Orion personnel conduct the tests on either Orion or customer facilities, as demonstrated in July 2005 by Orion delivering a 20k thrust-level capable mobile test stand to Mojave, CA for AirLaunch LLC’s QuickReach Stage Two LOX-Propane engine. Orion Propulsion was under direction of HMX, Inc. for this project.

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