Alchemist - Air Separation Technology Development

Period of Performance: 01/01/2002 - 12/31/2002


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Andrews Space, Inc.
3415 South 116th Street, Suite 123
Tukwila, WA 98168
Principal Investigator
Firm POC


The Alchemist system we are proposing is a combined-cycle system which reduces Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) liftoff weights by a factor of four relative to all-rocket systems. This reduces the weight of major elements (e.g. Jet engines, wing, and landing gear)by 60%, and allows us the margin to use the same principles and advantages commercial airplanes use to achieve very safe operations and low operating costs. Using Alchemist, a completely reusable RLV, weighing less than a 777 at takeoff, can operate out of existing commercial airport facilities and deliver the same usable payload to the International Space Station as the Space Shuttle . Turbofan engines are an integral partof the Alchemist system, providing not only takeoff, climb, and cruise propulsion, but all-envelope intact-abort capability, plus ferry capability. With the turbofans on board we have single-fault tolerance against catastrophic failure on all flight critical systems including main propulsion. Single-fault tolerance on all systems provides the operational breakthrough necessary to transition from artillery-like to airplane-like launch systems. Our calculations show that an RLV designed to take full advantage of Alchemist has less than a 1/10,000 chance of loss-of-vehicle and operating costs of $500/kilogram to LEO.