Ursa Major Performs First Successful Hotfire of Hypersonic Draper Engine

Ursa Major released this image of its Draper hypersonic liquid engine completing a successful hotfire test in March at the startup’s Berthoud, Colorado facility. (Image: Ursa Major)

Ursa Major announced the successful hotfire of its 4,000-pound thrust closed catalyst cycle hypersonic Draper engine at the company’s Colorado headquarters. The hotfire test occurred in March, while the startup released details about it last week.

Draper uses a non-cryogenic fuel that optimizes storability, making the engine uniquely suited for in-space propulsion applications. Based on its thrust profile, the engine is not only capable of maneuvering objects in orbit but doing so without fully depleting its store of propellant, potentially allowing for additional mission functions. As nations like Russia and China pursue anti-satellite systems, the need for defensive technology will continue to grow – Ursa Major’s Draper propulsion system is primed to be a part of that response.

Originally designed for hypersonic applications, Draper is additionally working to position the U.S. as a competitor in the field of hypersonics, where the country currently lags behind adversaries.

Drawing on the architectural and manufacturing legacy of Ursa Major’s Hadley engine, Draper combines the storable attributes of a solid rocket motor with active throttle control and throttle range of a liquid engine, providing the maneuverability and flexibility that is needed for hypersonic defense. It is this unique design that allows the engine to effectively simulate hypersonic threats.

“We're excited with how quickly the development program has progressed and look forward to fielding the engine for hypersonics and in-space applications in the coming years,” said Brad Appel, Chief Technology Officer at Ursa Major.

“Perhaps the most-impressive aspect of this program is the delivery of a versatile, storable rocket engine in such an incredibly short timeframe,” said Dr. Shawn Phillips, Chief of AFRL’s Rocket Propulsion Division.

Following this successful engine hotfire, Ursa Major intends to continue an aggressive development campaign and mature the engine towards flight qualification.