Orbitec has successfully made a full-duration flight test of its vortex-cooled engine in anticipation of an advanced upper stage engine programme (AUSEP) award.
The flight took place in Mojave, California, where the engine powered a small test rocket. The flight also tested an acoustic igniter and new exhaust nozzle. Following the test, all components are now considered tested prototypes.
"100% successful," says Paul Zamprelli, the company's business development manager. "The entire flight did exactly what our engineering had thought it would do in terms of engine performance, all the way through the cycle. It was very consistent with high [specific impulse], the igniter worked as predicted and the carbon-carbon nozzle worked as predicted."
Orbitec's technology involves injecting liquid propellant into the chamber in a carefully controlled vortex, which the company hopes will supplant current rocket engine cooling technologies.
AUSEP is an anticipated Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) programme to design a replacement for the Rocketdyne RL10, the current upper stage engine for the mainstay Atlas V and Delta IV vehicles that launch the vast majority of US government satellites.
"We're waiting on some funding, either by the government or we're open for talks for outside interests," says Zamprelli. "We're all waiting on the AUSEP."