We have had an incredible year. All the components and subsystems have finally come together into 2 flying vehicles. We designed and built the 750-LIT all aluminum engine, reworked Xombie from a 4 engine vehicle into a single engine vehicle, built Xoie in just 6 weeks, and cleaned up the NG-LLC. 2010 promises to be even better.
After a bit of a break, wherein just about everyone in the shop got sick, we are back to full strength and working on the next projects. All the projects serve a single goal – get to the edge of space with a small payload in the next year. There are three component/subsystem projects – aeroshell/aerodynamics, a 3000 lbf thrust engine, and “space” rating all systems. Those three projects feed the vehicle development projects – Xoie, Foxie, and Xogdor.
Xoie was just completely disassembled. We are re-arranging things on it so that it will be streamlined in a 30″ diameter cone and cylinder arrangement. An aeroshell (or three) will be built around it and we’ll start going much higher and faster. According to our trajectory analysis, it should be able to get to around 30 km (100,000 ft) altitude.
Jon and Ben are working on getting a new 3000 lbf engine and test stand built. Our goals are to get a much higher thrust to weight ratio, get higher Isp than our 750-LIT engine, and just generally make it better in every way. If all goes according to plan, we should be ready to mount a flight version of the engine on Foxie this summer.
Ken and Ian are updating and improving the software and electronics. Mike and I are working out the aeroshell and new vehicle designs. We are currently thinking about using high power rockets (HPR) to do some of the aerodynamic testing. A commercial HPR motor is much cheaper than a wind tunnel, and can get us a much larger range of aerodynamic conditions.
Foxie is in many ways just an updated Xoie. Xoie still has an internal structure supporting the tanks and other internal components while the aeroshell just takes the aerodynamic loads. With Foxie, we’ll have the aeroshell double as the structure holding all the internal bits together. Also, Foxie gets the new 3000 lbf engine. Initial estimates indicate that Foxie should be able to go to 60+ km (200,000+ ft).
Xogdor is just a better version of Foxie. Larger tanks within the same aeroshell size and shape enable Xogdor to get to over 100 km (328,000 ft).
On the business side, we just hired Colin Ake – one of our former interns – as our first full-time business development and salesperson. There are plenty of proposals to write, researchers to visit, conferences to attend and trade shows to display at. He’ll be working out of our Atlanta office with Michael but traveling a bit. Expect to see us around the country a lot more in 2010.
We have a lot to do, and the schedule is once again very challenging. Along with all the interesting things going on with our friends and competitors, 2010 is shaping up to be a very exciting year for both us and the industry as a whole.