What are novel and/or emerging technologies for low-cost, mobile, and rapid small-payload launch access to space?
In two separate technical inquiries DSIAC was asked to assess emerging technologies aiming to capitalize on the desire for low-cost, mobile, and rapid small payload launch capability to space. One technology of interest is Stofiel Aerospace’s hybrid balloon/3D-printed aerospike single-stage to orbit (SSTO) launch system to deliver micro- or nano-satellites into space. The information requested included the current technology readiness level (TRL) as well as the estimate of schedule and cost to reach each of the proceeding TRLs and produce a system ready for operational testing. The other technology of interest is RocketStar LLC’s aerospike engine that will facilitate an SSTO launch capability for micro-satellites and larger payloads. Many (most) components of the aerospike engine are additively manufactured (AM) to help reduce costs.
The research DSIAC conducted on these two technologies culminated in journal article in the spring of 2017 titled “Space Travel Aided by Plasma Thrusters: Past, Present and Future” (available online at http://bit.ly/2q22Qrh) and another in the fall of 2017 titled “Affordable Access to Low Earth Orbit” (available online at http://bit.ly/2uHuijG).