Author Topic: Astra Space (small launch vehicle)  (Read 35916 times)

Offline ringsider

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Astra Space (small launch vehicle)
« on: 01/14/2018 07:06 pm »
From Alaska Aerospace public minutes :-

http://akaerospace.com/sites/default/files/minutes/2017%2008%2017%20Board%20of%20Directors%20Minutes.pdf

f.   “New Space” Customer Update

AAC has a contract with Astra to support the  first four launches of their small liquid fuel commercial launch vehicle from PSCA.  The first launch is planned for December 2017.

Our focus at PSCA is toward getting liquid capability to accommodate these “first” liquid fuel launches.  This will be a very innovative launch.

Astra requires minimal support, they will use our range but did not request liquid fuel, they will do that on a temporary portable basis.  Their intent is to launch every month for the long term, which would involve new infrastructure investments and utilization of our facilities.   

Following a meeting in Oakland on July 28th, AAC has initiated the mission planning phase and assigned Barry King as the AAC lead. Astra is also interested in AAC’s potential development of an equatorial launch site [in Hawaii].

--

Launch firms in Oakland CA?
« Last Edit: 06/13/2018 04:24 pm by gongora »

Offline Jonas Bjarnoe

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Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #1 on: 01/14/2018 08:06 pm »

Offline Kryten

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Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #2 on: 01/14/2018 08:34 pm »
 Because of the use of 'Ad Astra' rather than Astra, this post ended up in a Vasimir thread, but given they're based in Texas it looks like it's not them either. The article quoted appears to have been deleted, which would match with this being some sort of stealth startup. One with an unimaginative name, but that's hardly unique in this industry.
http://akaerospace.com/news/commercial-rocket-launches-coming-kodiak-island
Quote
Ad Astra, a Texas-based aerospace company specializing in advanced plasma rocket propulsion technology, is contracted to launch from PSCA in late January or early February, he said. He said Kodiak may see “robust activity” from the company moving forward.

Offline ringsider

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Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #3 on: 01/14/2018 08:52 pm »
EDIT

Ventions works under the trade name Astra Space Inc.and won this contract last year:-

http://government-contracts.insidegov.com/l/94290253/NND17AP14C

DEVELOPMENT AND FLIGHT-TESTING OF A HIGH-PERFORMANCE ELECTRIC-PUMP FED LAUNCH VEHICLE

Then this

MON-30 / MMH

Then this

HIGH PERFORMANCE ELECTRIC PUMPS FOR ROCKET PROPULSION APPLICATIONS: THE PROJECT IS FOCUSED ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF A CUSTOM PUMP AND ELECTRIC MOTOR CAPABLE OF PRESSURIZING PROPELLANTS FOR AN 8,000-10,000LBF LIQUID BIPROPELLANT ENGINE. AVAILABILITY OF SUCH HIGH-POWER PUMPS WILL NOT ONLY ALLOW FOR LOW PRESSURE STORAGE OF PROPELLANTS IN LIGHT WEIGHT TANKS FOR SMALL-SCALE LAUNCH VEHICLE STAGES, BUT ALSO PROVIDE ELECTRONIC SPEED CONTROL WITH FAST RESPONSE TIMES THAT MAY ENABLE DIFFERENTIAL THROTTLE CONTROL. THE SCOPE OF THE PROJECT INCLUDES DESIGN, FABRICATION, ASSEMBLY AND TESTING OF A HIGH-POWER ELECTRIC PUMP CAPABLE OF PRESSURING PROPELLANTS TO APPROXIMATELY 600PSI FOR AN 8,000-10,000LBF THRUST ENGINE.

So, somebody wants to take on Rocket Lab...
« Last Edit: 01/14/2018 09:53 pm by ringsider »

Online russianhalo117

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Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #4 on: 01/15/2018 04:12 am »
EDIT

Ventions works under the trade name Astra Space Inc.and won this contract last year:-

http://government-contracts.insidegov.com/l/94290253/NND17AP14C

DEVELOPMENT AND FLIGHT-TESTING OF A HIGH-PERFORMANCE ELECTRIC-PUMP FED LAUNCH VEHICLE

Then this

MON-30 / MMH

Then this

HIGH PERFORMANCE ELECTRIC PUMPS FOR ROCKET PROPULSION APPLICATIONS: THE PROJECT IS FOCUSED ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF A CUSTOM PUMP AND ELECTRIC MOTOR CAPABLE OF PRESSURIZING PROPELLANTS FOR AN 8,000-10,000LBF LIQUID BIPROPELLANT ENGINE. AVAILABILITY OF SUCH HIGH-POWER PUMPS WILL NOT ONLY ALLOW FOR LOW PRESSURE STORAGE OF PROPELLANTS IN LIGHT WEIGHT TANKS FOR SMALL-SCALE LAUNCH VEHICLE STAGES, BUT ALSO PROVIDE ELECTRONIC SPEED CONTROL WITH FAST RESPONSE TIMES THAT MAY ENABLE DIFFERENTIAL THROTTLE CONTROL. THE SCOPE OF THE PROJECT INCLUDES DESIGN, FABRICATION, ASSEMBLY AND TESTING OF A HIGH-POWER ELECTRIC PUMP CAPABLE OF PRESSURING PROPELLANTS TO APPROXIMATELY 600PSI FOR AN 8,000-10,000LBF THRUST ENGINE.

So, somebody wants to take on Rocket Lab...
That is indeed it.

Online TrevorMonty

Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #5 on: 01/15/2018 07:44 am »
I thought 5klbs was about limit of electric pumps. 8-10klbs means RL could build engine twice as powerful as Rutherford. Probably already in development.




Offline Nomic

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Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #6 on: 01/15/2018 10:15 am »
Interesting bunch of contracts, couple about a LOX/RP1 microlauncher possibly using differential throttling rather than gimballing, presumably electropumps have better/faster throttle control than traditional turbopumps? 750psi chamber pressure (never seen a chamber pressure for electropumps before) and a storeable propellant space tug/sample return engine.

Offline deruch

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Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #7 on: 01/15/2018 10:18 am »
I thought 5klbs was about limit of electric pumps. 8-10klbs means RL could build engine twice as powerful as Rutherford. Probably already in development.

Maybe the difference in propellants changes that limit?  Based on the above, this engine is using hypergolics, MON-30/MMH.
Shouldn't reality posts be in "Advanced concepts"?  --Nomadd

Offline Asteroza

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Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #8 on: 01/15/2018 10:16 pm »
5Klbs limit is the rough line between reciprocating and turbine pump systems according to past research by Dr. White for LLNL. It is supposed to represent the lower limit for small turbine blade manufacturing, which is fairly difficult when you get that small as you need stupidly smooth surfaces on the blades. How the pump shaft is driven is a different problem, that electric motors solve neatly at small scales.

Though is that an assumption based on traditional vaned centrifugal pumps?

Dr. White felt a reciprocating system was the next viable choice (sometimes with a separate drive gas), but I never really had a sense of what kind of reciprocating pump. Some kind of OPOC or linear piston? Some sort of wankel, or perhaps the reverse of that, the LiquidPiston design?). Inline 4 cylinder, V or perhaps a radial?

What about unconventional rotary systems?

Online TrevorMonty

Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #9 on: 01/15/2018 10:43 pm »
As motors and batteries get better, cross over point between electric and standard turbo pumps will move higher.

With LOX available for cooling use of superconductor motors should be possible. I don't know if they exist or how expensive.

Online russianhalo117

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Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #10 on: 01/16/2018 05:03 pm »
5Klbs limit is the rough line between reciprocating and turbine pump systems according to past research by Dr. White for LLNL. It is supposed to represent the lower limit for small turbine blade manufacturing, which is fairly difficult when you get that small as you need stupidly smooth surfaces on the blades. How the pump shaft is driven is a different problem, that electric motors solve neatly at small scales.

Though is that an assumption based on traditional vaned centrifugal pumps?

Dr. White felt a reciprocating system was the next viable choice (sometimes with a separate drive gas), but I never really had a sense of what kind of reciprocating pump. Some kind of OPOC or linear piston? Some sort of wankel, or perhaps the reverse of that, the LiquidPiston design?). Inline 4 cylinder, V or perhaps a radial?

What about unconventional rotary systems?
Additive manufacturing and other advances have changed the limits slightly.
« Last Edit: 01/16/2018 05:04 pm by russianhalo117 »

Offline Asteroza

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Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #11 on: 01/16/2018 10:19 pm »
5Klbs limit is the rough line between reciprocating and turbine pump systems according to past research by Dr. White for LLNL. It is supposed to represent the lower limit for small turbine blade manufacturing, which is fairly difficult when you get that small as you need stupidly smooth surfaces on the blades. How the pump shaft is driven is a different problem, that electric motors solve neatly at small scales.

Though is that an assumption based on traditional vaned centrifugal pumps?

Dr. White felt a reciprocating system was the next viable choice (sometimes with a separate drive gas), but I never really had a sense of what kind of reciprocating pump. Some kind of OPOC or linear piston? Some sort of wankel, or perhaps the reverse of that, the LiquidPiston design?). Inline 4 cylinder, V or perhaps a radial?

What about unconventional rotary systems?
Additive manufacturing and other advances have changed the limits slightly.

Unfortunately 3D printing surface finishes are still an issue, and doing 5 axis milling to do finishing work at small scale is still a pain.

Offline speedevil

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Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #12 on: 01/21/2018 12:21 pm »
As motors and batteries get better, cross over point between electric and standard turbo pumps will move higher.

With LOX available for cooling use of superconductor motors should be possible. I don't know if they exist or how expensive.
In principle, cryogenic ultrapure copper has lots lower losses - around 10% best case at 77K.
This would need some form of moderately exotic cooling, but with high pressure liquid oxygen available 'free' - it may pay off.
Superconductor flux density limits as I understand it for high temperature superconductors won't allow you go approach copper closely.

Even commercial stuff is getting to the point it's suitable in some cases.
https://hobbyking.com/en_us/graphene-5000mah-4s-hardcase-w-5mm-female-bullet-connector.html - as one example.
This is a $100 battery which weighs 600g, and can produce 6kW of power for a minute and a half. Rather better energy density is readily available for 6 minute discharges.

I do wonder how much scaling you can do with this and have it matter.
In that, while conventional turbopumps have obvious economies of scale, at least for the motor side, really quite small pumps may be the best size, and be very amenable to simply paralleling, even if you want larger combustion chambers.
At some point, 'proper' turbopumps will be a clear win.


Online Gliderflyer

Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #13 on: 02/17/2018 01:07 pm »
Looks like a news helicopter caught them outside with their rocket:

http://abc7news.com/technology/sky7-spots-stealthy-space-startup-testing-its-rocket-in-alameda/3097474/

Interesting 5 engine arrangement.
« Last Edit: 02/17/2018 01:09 pm by Gliderflyer »
I tried it at home

Offline Kryten

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Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #14 on: 02/17/2018 02:52 pm »
https://alameda.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2912485&GUID=EA222BDA-54DC-4B5E-B01C-8B7D7458C364&FullText=1

Found the lease documents mentioned in the article; it confirms Astra is the company formerly known as Ventions. I've attached the presentation given as it contains most of the interesting stuff, the rest is legal boilerplate.

Offline jongoff

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Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #15 on: 02/17/2018 09:56 pm »
https://alameda.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2912485&GUID=EA222BDA-54DC-4B5E-B01C-8B7D7458C364&FullText=1

Found the lease documents mentioned in the article; it confirms Astra is the company formerly known as Ventions. I've attached the presentation given as it contains most of the interesting stuff, the rest is legal boilerplate.

I'm not going to add anything that isn't already in the public domain, but it's cool seeing them finally getting some recognition--even if they didn't necessarily want it yet. The fact that they could stay stealth this long has been impressive.

~Jon

Offline Skyrocket

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Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #16 on: 02/18/2018 03:53 am »
Another view of the vehicle at Alameda Naval Air Station

Offline sanman

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Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #17 on: 02/18/2018 04:16 am »
Interesting bunch of contracts, couple about a LOX/RP1 microlauncher possibly using differential throttling rather than gimballing, presumably electropumps have better/faster throttle control than traditional turbopumps? 750psi chamber pressure (never seen a chamber pressure for electropumps before) and a storeable propellant space tug/sample return engine.

From your link:

Quote
TO-DATE, THE REALIZATION OF HIGH-PERFORMANCE LIQUID BIPROPELLANT ROCKET ENGINES FOR ASCENT VEHICLE AND SAMPLE RETURN APPLICATIONS HAS LARGELY BEEN HINDERED BY THE INABILITY TO OBTAIN "ON-BOARD" PRESSURIZATION THROUGH A LIGHT-WEIGHT AND LOW-COMPLEXITY PUMP. VENTIONS SEEKS TO FULFILL THIS CRITICAL NEED BY OFFERING LOW-RISK, ELECTRIC-MOTOR DRIVEN PUMPS FOR A MON-30 / MMH LIQUID BIPROPELLANT ENGINE IN THE MARS ASCENT VEHICLE FOR SIGNIFICANT PERFORMANCE, MASS AND PACKAGING ADVANTAGES OVER PRESSURE-FED OR SOLID / HYBRID PROPULSION SYSTEMS.

So this technology could even be used for Mars Sample Return Mission? That's something that's showing up in the new budget, isn't it?

Online vaporcobra

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Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #18 on: 02/18/2018 06:21 am »
Judging by the fact that they appear to be already performing static fire tests with an integrated, full-scale vehicle, one wouldn't be hard pressed to argue that they are further along than Vector, if not Virgin Orbit as well. I'm impressed that they managed to stay so utterly silent...

Here are job listings, FWIW, including a boilerplate company message.
https://boards.greenhouse.io/stealthspacecompany

Quote
We are a small, highly entrepreneurial team of rocket engineers with deep technical expertise who love to build things and relish the idea of a grand challenge.

We believe that space is the ultimate high ground, and we are on a mission to provide routine access to earth orbit for the entrepreneurs and enterprises that are launching a new generation of services powered by small satellites that will connect, observe, and influence our planet.  Building on over a decade of technology development in rocket propulsion, structures, and avionics funded by NASA and DARPA, we are applying a fast-paced, hardware-focused, agile approach to space launch.

Are you an engineer, hacker, maker, physicist who has always dreamed of building rockets? Come help us build the hardware and launch the services that will open the frontier of space to the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Quote
Have 2-10 years of industry experience with pressurized systems, with an understanding of factors of safety and operational safety at 6000+ psi
Damn, that's like 400+ atm...
« Last Edit: 02/18/2018 06:21 am by vaporcobra »

Offline IRobot

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Re: Astra - new launcher?
« Reply #19 on: 02/18/2018 10:14 am »
Unfortunately 3D printing surface finishes are still an issue, and doing 5 axis milling to do finishing work at small scale is still a pain.
Seems simple enough for high performance cars and regular airplanes.

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