Peroxide engine being developed for spaceplane

Posted: May 14, 2001

Artist's concept of SMV in orbit. Photo: Air Force
Aerojet has received a contract from the Air Force to develop the propulsion engine for the Air Force's Space Maneuvering Vehicle, a small reusable craft that could perform a variety of missions for the Department of Defense.

The contract is initially worth $10.4 million, with options that could earn Aerojet up to $29.9 million over the coming years.

The engine, called the Advanced Reusable Rocket Engine (ARRE), would serve as the maneuvering system on the SMV concept. The ARRE would be fueled by non-toxic hydrogen peroxide propellant.

"The ARRE program represents a dramatic stepping stone for Aerojet's reusable rocket engine technologies - as well as the aerospace industry as a whole. This program will advance state-of-the-art peroxide engine technologies 30 years by maintaining storable rocket engine performance with environmentally friendly propellants," said Aerojet Vice President of Programs Russ Reavis.

Aerojet's work on the ARRE will begin immediately and last through around April 2005.

"Aerojet is tasked to develop an Advanced Reusable Rocket Engine that utilizes non-toxic, hydrogen peroxide as a propellant," said Aerojet's ARRE manager, Adam Siebenhaar. "The technology Aerojet proposed for the SMV engine significantly leapfrogs existing peroxide-based technologies by using advanced injection concepts, fabrication processes and chamber materials."

Managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory, the SMV could carry out a wide variety of DoD missions, such as tactical reconnaissance, identification and surveillance of space objects, and space-based logistics. Another possibility includes utilizing an SMV as a reusable satellite platform that could be launched into orbit unmanned, operate payloads, and return to Earth unmanned, landing on a conventional runway.