Remember the "self-eating" autophage rocket reported on back in 2018? This week's Rocket Report from Ars Technica reports that the United Kingdom's Defense and Security Accelerator has pledged nearly $120,000 to further development of a novel "autophage" rocket. The project, under development at the University of Glasgow, burns its own structure as propellant during its ascent to orbit.
Autophage engines have already been test-fired by the Glasgow team using all-solid propellant. The new funding will underwrite the research required to use a more energetic hybrid propellant: a solid tube of fuel containing a liquid oxidiser. The engine will be test-fired at Kingston University in London’s new rocket laboratory in London next year.One of the most interesting things that's happened to me in the 10 years of this blog is that the principal investigator on the engines, Dr. Patrick Harkness of the University of Glasgow, stumbled across the posting I put up and contributed to the discussion.
It has been reported that this might represent the first funding NASA has ever given to SpaceX for the Starship vehicles.
- Eta Space of Merritt Island, Florida, $27 million
Small-scale flight demonstration of a complete cryogenic oxygen fluid management system. As proposed, the system will be the primary payload on a Rocket Lab Photon satellite and collect critical cryogenic fluid management data in orbit for nine months. The small business will collaborate with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
- Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado, $89.7 million
In-space demonstration mission using liquid hydrogen – the most challenging of the cryogenic propellants – to test more than a dozen cryogenic fluid management technologies, positioning them for infusion into future space systems. Lockheed Martin will collaborate with Marshall and Glenn.
- SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, $53.2 million
Large-scale flight demonstration to transfer 10 metric tons of cryogenic propellant, specifically liquid oxygen, between tanks on a Starship vehicle. SpaceX will collaborate with Glenn and Marshall.
- United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Centennial, Colorado, $86.2 million
Demonstration of a smart propulsion cryogenic system, using liquid oxygen and hydrogen, on a Vulcan Centaur upper stage. The system will test precise tank pressure control, tank-to-tank transfer, and multi-week propellant storage. ULA will collaborate with Marshall, Kennedy, and Glenn.
Speaking of SpaceX and the Starship development, as anticipated on Sunday, all three raptor engines have been mounted on prototype SN8, and testing began during the overnight hours last night. Testing will resume with a road closure at 9:00 PM CDT until 6:00 AM tomorrow, followed immediately by closure tomorrow, the Anticipation is running high that a Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) will be conducted tonight followed by a static firing test tomorrow.
Regardless of the schedule uncertainty and potential for delays, if SpaceX manages to successful launch Starlink-13 and Starlink-14 within the next two or so weeks, October will mark the first time the company has launched three Starlink missions in one month. If the missions weren’t for Starlink, SpaceX would effectively be creating the second largest commercial satellite constellation in the world in less than 30 days.
Additionally, NextSpaceflight.com reports that SpaceX has assigned Falcon 9 booster B1060 to Starlink-14. If Starlink-14 lifts off on schedule on October 21st, B1060 will beat out B1058 for the crown of fastest booster turnaround, launching twice in just 48 days. Falcon 9 B1058 set the current world record when it beat NASA’s Space Shuttle (54 days) with a 51-day turnaround earlier this year.