Reusable rocket start-up iRocket has entered into a new partnership with NASA in its quest to reach commercialization in just two years.
The partnership will provide iRocket with access to test facilities and technical support, primarily at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The company hopes it will perform its first rocket engine test – a ground engine firing test – at the Huntsville site in September.
iRocket is allocating $ 50 million over the next five years for testing and development of its reusable motors and launcher. Access to NASA facilities also means access to test beds – a critical infrastructure that provides controlled conditions for engine testing. iRocket will be able to perform vacuum tests (which simulate space conditions) at the Glenn Research Center in Ohio and sea level tests at Marshall.
“We are engaged in very intimate discussions, right down to the central level, at the Marshall Space Flight Center,” iRocket CEO Asad Malik said in a recent interview with TechCrunch.
The engines in question will eventually power iRocket’s first Shockwave launchers, small, fully reusable, self-contained launchers capable of carrying a payload of up to approximately 300 kg (661 lb) and 1,500 kg (approximately 3,300 lb). ). Manufactured by 3D printing, the engines will be powered by methane and liquid oxygen. “Methane is going to be the fuel of choice for deep space missions,” said Malik.
The New York-based startup is also aiming to make engines hypersonic, an ambitious goal. But iRocket has ambitious plans. Malik wants to make the company the number one supplier of reusable rocket motors and the rockets themselves. Because he designs the two rocket stages to be reusable as well – a stark difference between him and other rocket developers – Malik said the company may someday not only launch satellites and cargo missions. , but also cleaning up space waste or recovering experiments for biotechnology companies.
Malik pointed out that the sale of Aerojet Rocketdyne to Lockheed Martin – which is still under review by the Federal Trade Commission – will leave a vacuum in the market. “This will open up the United States without an independent rocket supplier at a time when Congress is really pushing us to move away from parts bought overseas,” he said. “So this is an opportunity for us to work with the government, the Pentagon, NASA and other partners to develop this next generation space propulsion capability that we need.”