|Back to News Release Index|
For Release: April 29, 1996
NASA SEEKS IDEAS FOR COMBINED AIR-BREATHING, ROCKET
NASA has taken another step toward developing new propulsion technologies that would enable payloads to be delivered to orbit at a fraction of the cost of current propulsion systems. The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., released a NASA Research Announcement on Friday soliciting propulsion technology ideas for using a combination of air-breathing and rocket engines to reduce the weight and cost of future launch vehicles.
Called a rocket-based combined cycle propulsion system, it theoretically would use an air-breathing engine, consuming atmospheric oxygen while in Earths atmosphere, and a rocket engine using a stored oxidizer when beyond the atmosphere. By reducing the amount of stored oxidizer, the weight of the system could be significantly reduced.
While air-breathing engines have been studied in ground tests, a combination of rocket and air-breathing engines on a single system is a new concept that NASA wants to develop for flight testing.
"This is one of the technologies we want to explore that could possibly take us well into the next century in the area of rocket propulsion," said Garry Lyles, task force leader for Marshalls Advanced Space Transportation Technologies Office.
NASAs intent is to develop advanced technologies for application to future transportation systems that would result in significant reduction of transportation cost to low earth orbit. The long range goal is to demonstrate the maturity of this technology to levels necessary to reduce the development risk of integrating combined cycle rocket-based propulsion systems into future launch vehicles.
"We have a goal to reduce the transportation cost to low earth orbit to approximately $100 to $200 for a pound of payload on future space vehicles of a similar capacity to that of a Space Shuttle system or a reusable launch vehicle," said Uwe Hueter, team leader for the rocket-based combined cycle program. "We want to improve and mature this new technology for its potential use in future systems."
Proposals are due to Marshall for evaluation in two cycles, the first in June and the second in July. NASA anticipates multiple awards within the available budget of $20 million for the first two years of the proposed technology demonstration activity.
Participation in the research announcement is open to industry, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations and government agencies
having capabilities and experience in liquid rocket and air-breathing propulsion, launch vehicle/propulsion system design and integration, fabrication, and, or operations.
This activity is part of NASAs initiative to explore new propulsion technologies for the future. The Advanced Space Transportation program managed at Marshall, NASAs center of excellence for propulsion, focuses on technological advances, not addressed by the Reusable Launch Vehicle program, that have the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of access to space.