Rocket Engine Technology

Invocon, Inc.
Conroe, TX

The team of Invocon, Inc., KT Engineering Corporation, and Troy 7, Inc. has been awarded a Prototype Project Award by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) for the Aerospike Rocket Integration and Suborbital Experiment (ARISE). Awarded through the Space Enterprise Consortium ® (SpEC) and managed by the Air Force Research Labs (AFRL) Rocket Lab at Edwards AFB, California, the project will demonstrate flight in a sub-orbital flight test of a launch vehicle utilizing a single rocket engine with an annular aerospike nozzle, modular thrust cells, and modular turbomachinery.

The primary objective of the flight test is obtaining flight performance data for the modular aerospike engine over a range of operation representative of a launch vehicle trajectory, including open wake regime, wake transition, and closed wake regime. To achieve this objective, the team will produce a highly instrumented modular aerospike engine and launch vehicle and perform integration activities, execute range coordination, and conduct launch operations on a sub-orbital flight, the first of which is scheduled for 2022.

This effort will also mark the first representative flight of an aerospike engine after many decades of research and abandoned flight efforts. Aerospike nozzles operate in three modes (open wake, wake transition, and closed wake) at specific altitudes depending on the engine design, flight trajectory, and ambient atmospheric conditions. ARISE will fly a launch-to-orbit trajectory to ensure the aerospike nozzle operates in all three regimes and gathers applicable data for future launch vehicles.

The benefits of this structure include improved performance, better facilitation of integration schemes between vehicle and engine, and improved adaptability between different derivative engine and vehicle. Until now, uncertainties related to design and performance presented barriers to engine modularity and aerospike nozzles in launch vehicles. Since ARISE will demonstrate relevant behavior in flight and gather large amounts of data that can anchor models, this initiative will significantly decrease the risks and costs associated with developing future rocket engines that incorporate this technology.

KT Engineering (KTE) is a small business specializing in the research, design, analysis and testing of aerospace systems, subsystems and components. KTE has demonstrated expertise in the research and development of low-cost chemical rocket engines, high-performance pressurization systems, and lightweight metallic tanks and structures, and 18 years of experience in the design, analysis and testing of aerospike and plug cluster rocket engines.

Troy7 is a woman-owned small business with core competencies in guidance and control, telemetry, vehicle design, and launch operations. Troy7 is a highly technical small business with a legacy of support to more than 350 DoD and NASA flight test missions. Troy7 currently supports MDA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), PEO Missiles and Space, the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC), and commercial companies.

Invocon is a veteran-owned small business that provides turnkey instrumentation and control solutions for demanding applications in extreme environments for the sensing and data acquisition communities. For the ARISE project, Invocon is responsible for engine instrumentation, PCM telemetry encoders and transmitters, vehicle battery power and control, and flight termination system. As a SpEC Consortium member, Invocon will serve as prime contractor for the project.

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