The ACE nano-launch vehicle offers small payload launch capability for a cost that is competitive on a $/kg basis with that of large launch vehicles. This represents more than an order of magnitude improvement in affordability over what can be achieved with existing small launch vehicles. This launch capability would provide NASA with the means to affordably launch numerous small scientific and exploratory spacecraft, without having to bundle them together on large launch vehicles. This will provide NASA with enhanced flexibility in mission design that will increase space mission effectiveness. When the ACE vehicle design is eventually scaled to heavy-lift size, the cost of payload delivery to orbit would be reduced to less than $500/kg to LEO. This would represent an order of magnitude improvement in affordability compared to existing large heavy-lift launch vehicles. This level of launch affordability would enable large scale access to space that would facilitate permanent habitation of the Moon and Mars. In the near term, the suite of ACE technologies can be used to upgrade NASA space systems. For instance, the NORPS non-helium pressurization system could be used to reduce helium use on Orion and SLS. The high performance BHL cryotanks could be used to improve performance of SLS and other NASA vehicles under development. The Superior Stability Engine technology could be used to reduce development costs for new NASA engines.
The ACE nano-launch system would provide commercial and DoD customers with an affordable means to launch small payloads to orbit that is competitive with large launch vehicles. As a small launch vehicle with the capability of austere operations, ACE can be used to provide DoD with tactical launch capability that can be used to increase resiliency of US military space assets. Additionally, the affordability of ACE would allow it to be adapted for weapons delivery, thereby providing low-cost global strike capability. The suite of ACE technologies can be used to upgrade commercial and DoD space launch systems. Several commercial launch vehicle developers are already considering BHL cryotanks for their vehicles. The Air Force is currently considering the UCDS and SSE technologies for insertion into their Oxygen Rich Staged Combustion engine development effort. The Missile Defense Agency is considering using the UCDS technology to improve the stability and performance of missile defense systems.