Masten Selected for SBIR Contract for Mars LOX/Methane Ascent Engine

The ADAPT test system can help a spacecraft divert its course and make a smooth, pinpoint landing. The system is built on Masten's XA-0.1B "Xombie" vertical-launch, vertical-landing reusable rocket. (Credit: NASA Photo/Tom Tschida)
The ADAPT test system can help a spacecraft divert its course and make a smooth, pinpoint landing. The system is built on Masten’s XA-0.1B “Xombie” vertical-launch, vertical-landing reusable rocket. (Credit: NASA Photo/Tom Tschida)be

NASA has selected Masten Space Systems for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I award to begin work on a25 klb thrust liquid oxygen/methane Mars ascent engine.

“Woohoo! We get to build a 25klb thrust LOX/CH4 engine for !” founder Dave Masten wrote on Twitter. “Or at least selected for a Phase I SBIR.”

The engine would be build with additive manufacturing (AM,aka 3D printing).

“The use of AM processes have the potential to realize transformative mass, cost, and schedule savings over current state of the art in the 25,000 lbf thrust class that will enable human and robotic missions to Mars and beyond,” the company said in the proposal abstract. “Masten has prior experience in the use of additive manufacturing for high thrust engine hardware and will build on this heritage for the in-space propulsion application proposed in this Phase I effort.

“A Masten Mars Ascent engine presents new mission architecture for NASA’s proving ground missions and in exploration beyond to deep space destinations,” the company said. “Technology demonstrations of MMA’s in-space propulsion and ascent capabilities will target NASA’s cislunar (short stay and long stay) cis-Mars robotic, Mars orbit, and Mars surface missions”

Masten also said the engine project would be useful inDARPA’s XS-1 program. The company is in competition with Boeing and Northrop Grumman to develop a reusable launch vehicle that can be flown 10 times in 10 days.

“Masten’s XS-1 design, known as Xephyr, builds on Masten’s award-winning VTVL heritage, aircraft-like reusability, reliable propulsive control, high tempo operations, and unprecedented price per launch,” the company said. “Propulsion for the Xephyr reusable vehicle will be the 65,000lbf+ LOX/methane booster Broadsword engine, which is currently in prototype development.”

A summary of the proposal is below.

SBIR PROPOSAL SUMMARY

Proposal Title: Additive Manufacturing Technology for a 25,000 lbf LOX/Methane Mars Ascent Engine
Subtopic Title: LOX/Methane In-Space Propulsion

Small Business Concern
Masten Space Systems, Inc.
Mojave, CA

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Mr. Jacob Teufert

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 2
End: 4

Technical Abstract

Masten Space Systems proposes a Phase I SBIR effort in support of the preliminary development of a 25,000 lbf additively manufactured (AM), aluminum alloy, liquid oxygen (LOX)/methane engine for in-space propulsion. The use of AM processes have the potential to realize transformative mass, cost, and schedule savings over current state of the art in the 25,000 lbf thrust class that will enable human and robotic missions to Mars and beyond.

The proposed effort will utilize Masten’s experience in engine design and fabrication as well its experience with AM processes. Masten has prior experience in the use of additive manufacturing for high thrust engine hardware and will build on this heritage for the in-space propulsion application proposed in this Phase I effort. Specifically, the proposed AM engine design approach employs innovative regenerative cooling channel geometries that leverage the design freedom of AM to maintain adequate chamber cooling.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

Evolvable Mars Campaign. A Masten Mars Ascent engine presents new mission architecture for NASA’s proving ground missions and in exploration beyond to deep space destinations. Technology demonstrations of MMA’s in-space propulsion and ascent capabilities will target NASA’s cislunar (short stay and long stay) cis-Mars robotic, Mars orbit, and Mars surface missions. The cost and mass savings that comes with the use of additive manufacturing along with Masten’s expertise in engine component and systems development presents a needed and affordable opportunity to prove the reliability of critical systems and operations techniques on which missions into deep space will depend. K. C. Laurini and M. M. Gates, NASA’s Space Exploration Planning: The Asteroid Mission and the Step-Wise Path to Mars, 65th International Astronautical Congress, Toronto, Canada, Copyright 2014 by the International Astronautical Federation.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

DARPA XS-1

This DARPA Tactical Technology Office (TTO) Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) initiative has contracted Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Masten in the first phase of development for a reusable first stage launch vehicle that will fly 10 times in 10 days, to Mach 10+ at least once and launch a demonstration payload to orbit. Masten’s design will develop a vertical takeoff vertical launch (VTVL) system with return to launch site capability and a reusable booster to launch 1500+ kg payloads to orbit. Masten’s XS-1 design, known as Xephyr, builds on Masten’s award-winning VTVL heritage, aircraft-like reusability, reliable propulsive control, high tempo operations, and unprecedented price per launch. Propulsion for the Xephyr reusable vehicle will be the 65,000lbf+ LOX/methane booster Broadsword engine, which is currently in prototype development.

Commercial Launch Vehicles

An accelerated production of small satellites and new applications are driving up demand for nontraditional launches, and demand for launches is projected to continue to increase significantly as payload development and launch costs decrease. Satellite operators and vendors are targeting shorter lifespan satellites, less expensive buses, and lower launch costs, as they migrate from a handful of large geostationary assets toward constellations of small satellites in LEO. As a result, increased responsiveness and reduced cost launch vehicles are poised to reshape the small payload launch market.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Entry, Descent, & Landing (see also Planetary Navigation, Tracking, & Telemetry)
  • Nonspecified
  • Processing Methods
  • Space Transportation & Safety
  • Spacecraft Main Engine
  • Surface Propulsion

  • windbourne

    so many companies are now into engines. Hopefully they will expand and do tugs, etc.
    Or perhaps this will cause new companies to do life supports esp toilets and shower. Ugh.

  • PK Sink

    I wouldn’t want to be the test dummy for those toilets. Especially on parabolic flights. 🙁

  • Aerospike

    Hm not sure what your point is regarding “so many companies are now into engines”? Masten Space System has been building engines from day one.