NASA is returning to the Moon in 2024 with the Artemis mission and will need an array of satellites in lunar orbit to provide communications, navigation information, and scientific data to personnel on the Moon and Earth. There is a need to develop a lunar transfer stage for small rocket launch vehicles to deliver a 25 kg satellite payload to lunar orbit. This transfer stage needs to be capable but compact. It should also be low cost and safe, which can be achieved by utilizing new non-toxic “green” propellants. Lynntech, along with a large industry team and AFRL, proposes to use a proprietary “green” monopropellant engine and PMD tank to develop a transfer stage that is compact, efficient, and cost-effective for the delivery of payloads. This monopropellant was flight-proven in 2019 and is ready for general use. In Phase I, we will define the mission, perform analysis, ground-test a propulsion element, and identify all necessary components and team members in preparation for demonstration and delivery in Phase II.
The proposed technology can be utilized to transfer satellites from TLI to NRHO as well as to orbit other planets in support of NASA missions. Lynntech’s revolutionary engine could enable low-cost exploration of the Solar System while making launch operations safer. The engine is scalable so higher thrust levels are achieved with minor changes to the injector, enabling necessary delta-V burns. Our proprietary PMD technology could also allow for effective square or rectangular PMD tanks that maximize space utilization aboard CubeSats.
The proposed technology is of general applicability to rocket transfer stages from LEO to GEO (for military and commercial satellites). The growth of the orbital economy will depend on low-cost movement and placement of satellites which this system will provide. The propulsion system could also be used to create agile satellites for greater survivability in military operations.