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SBIR/STTR

Nitrous Ethane-Ethylene Rocket with Hypergolic Ignition, Phase II

Active Technology Project

Project Introduction

The Nitrous Ethane-Ethylene Rocket with Hypergolic Ignition (NEERHI) engine is a proposed technology designed to provide small spacecraft with non-toxic, non-cryogenic, high performance, hypergolic propulsion. When passed over a warm catalyst bed, gaseous nitrous oxide and an ethylene-ethane gaseous blend combust instantly. A small 1 N thruster can be designed to provide small satellite propulsion systems with a specific impulse of approximately 300 seconds. Both propellants are self-pressurizing, capable of delivering feed line pressures in excess of 800 psi at room temperature, and 400 psi if cooled to 0?C. For longer duration missions, both nitrous oxide and an ethane-ethylene fuel blend do not require thermal heating to maintain a liquid state, and as such, can be stored on Earth or in space for in-definite periods of time with no parasitic power drain required to maintain a liquid propellant. Compared to other available chemical propulsion systems, a NEERHI system offers a cost effective solution as other hypergolic engines use hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide which are toxic and dangerous to handle, increasing ground costs. As an added capability, the NEERHI engine has the ability to operate as a monopropellant engine if the catalyst be is heated with a bipropellant reaction, increasing the lifetime of the catalyst bed and reducing heating loads on the engine. The fuel and oxidizer have nearly identical vapor pressure curves, allowing them to be stored in compact common-bulkhead tanks. More »

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