Tuesday, April 01, 2008

SpeedUp at Space Access '08

Bob Steinke began the SpeedUp presentation by showing a new video that's not (at the time of the talk at least) on the website. It's a tethered hover flight testing the attitude control system. The LLC vehicle is complete and they've made good progress towards the LLC.

The main part of the talk didn't concern the LLC, but rather a new business idea. They're developing a new product - and upper stage. The business opportunity is presented by the new suborbital vehicles, which have no upper stages to get payloads higher or into orbit.

It's using a non-toxic hypergolic hydrogen peroxide hybrid. Its characteristics include being restartable, storable, reliable, inexpensive, and interoperable with various 1st stage vehicles. It can be thought of as the "Centaur of NewSpace".

The oxygen tank technology comes from the LLC vehicle. He has different partners set up, including Swift Enterprises for the hypergolic propellant and Frontier for attitude control.

He sees 3 markets:

1. Increasing the performance of suborbital launch - NASA suborbital science missions typically involve up to 800 pounds and 1800 km apogee, which the NewSpace suborbital tourism vehicles couldn't reach without an upper stage.

2. Orbital - This would involve 3 stages: the suborbital tourism vehicle, a 2nd stage with 3 SpeedUp modules, and a 3rd stage with a single SpeedUp module.

3. On-orbit propulsion - for example, apogee kick, plane change, reboost, deorbit

There was more on SpeedUp during the Frontier Astronautics talk - in fact more about the LLC entry than there was in this talk - but I didn't take notes during that talk. It was an interesting one though - Frontier is involved in a lot of diverse and interesting projects.

You can see more on this talk at Why Homeschool and RLV News (below the orbital propellant depot section of that post - but check that, too, and the prize-related comment and the response and associated material by Jon Goff).