NASA SBIR 2009 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 09-1 S3.08-8312
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Planetary Ascent Vehicles
PROPOSAL TITLE: Magnesium Based Rockets for Martian Exploration

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Busek Co., Inc.
11 Tech Circle
Natick, MA 01760 - 1023
(508) 655-5565

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
James Szabo
11 Tech Circle
Natick, MA 01760 - 1023
(508) 655-5565

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 4

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
We propose to develop Mg rockets for Martian ascent vehicle applications. The propellant can be acquired in-situ from MgO in the Martian regolith (5.1% Mg by mass) and combusted with H20 that exists at the poles and below the surface. The vacuum Isp of a Mg-H20 rocket would be ~300 s. Mg can also be combusted with CO2 condensed from the Martian atmosphere to yield Isp ~215 s. The technology can also be used on the Moon, where regolith is 5.5% Mg. Al-H20 rockets would also be enabled; like Mg, Al is present in Martian and Lunar regolith.

In Phase I, we will prove the feasibility of Mg rockets. Chemical Equilibrium Analysis codes will be used to predict rocket performance at various operating conditions and O/F ratios. Combustion with CO2, H20, and pure O2 will be considered. Experiments will focus on developing and characterizing delivery, ignition and combustion systems, starting with ARL's existing Mg combustion system. Ways to achieve low temperature, electrolytic ignition and stable combustion will be studied. Drawing upon both experimental and theoretical results, we will then design a 5-10 N metal-water rocket system to be built and tested in Phase II.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Mg-based rockets are attractive for Martian applications due the possibility of acquiring both oxidizer and fuel in-situ. Mg and Al could be extracted from the soil using electrolysis, while CO2 could be compressed from the atmosphere, and H20 could be obtained with a regolith reduction reactor.

The initial targeted application is propulsion for a Martian PAV. Once in orbit, Mg based rockets or Hall thrusters could propel the samples to Earth.

Mg combustion technology has other promising uses on Mars. A ramjet or turboprop could propel a Martian airplane. Mg and Al could also be processed, stored, and combusted to provide energy on demand. ARL's existing technology proves the feasibility of this option.
Metal based rockets could also be used for lunar exploration. Al , Mg and O2 for oxidation can be extracted from lunar regolith.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Near Earth, Mg-water or Al-water rockets (a direct derivative) could propel Earth orbiting spacecraft. Mg and Al are high performance, "green" alternatives to hydrazine.
Commercial and military satellites could use metal-water thrusters for on-orbit repositioning and orbit-raising. They could also be used in upper stages and as apogee engines.
In a multi-mode propulsion system, a Mg-water rocket could provide high thrust while a Mg Hall thruster could provide low thrust at high Isp. This system would be both fuel efficient and responsive.
Atmospheric applications of Mg-water combustion technology could include HALE aircraft.

Naval applications include: a water breathing, high speed rocket propelled torpedo: a low speed , long range, unmanned undersea vehicles; long duration sensor power.

Commercial, non-defense applications include very dense and green chemical hydrogen sources for fuel cell applications. This application may be of particular interest to the automobile industry.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

Energy Storage
Feed System Components
In-situ Resource Utilization
Propellant Storage

Form Generated on 09-18-09 10:14