Scorpius is a Microcosm program to develop an entirely new launch vehicle family with the objective of reducing overall launch system cost by a factor of 10. This paper reports on the progress and problems since the program was publicly introduced at the 9th AIAA/USU Conference.
Substantial technical progress has occurred. The 5,000 lb. thrust engine that was created on the day of last year’s presentation was successfully test fired for 200 continuous sec on Nov. 28, 1995, with an estimated 135 sec of additional life on the chamber. The 200 sec burn duration per stage is sufficient to reach orbit for the baseline configurations of both mini-lift (100 kg to LEO for <$1 million) and light lift (1,000 kg to LEO for <$2 million) vehicles as well as low cost stages for existing assets. Some vehicle configurations under consideration use larger engines as well.
In addition, thrust vector control by secondary fluid injection was demonstrated on a later test firing. This demonstrates the use of very low cost approaches to achieving substantial control authority. Videotape of the successful firings will be presented. For each of the engines to date, the recurring, unburdened production cost has been less than $5,000 per engine, which is approximately 2 orders of magnitude less than the cost estimated by traditional costing algorithms.
Contractually, the program has proceeded more slowly than we would have desired. However, five new contracts are now in place that will substantially increase the scope and pace of the program. If funding proceeds, we anticipate being able to substantially reduce total launch costs for small payloads with initial flights in 2.5 to 3 years for new vehicles or in 2 years for existing assets with a new upper stage.
Bauer, T., R. Conger, E. Keith, J. Wertz, 1996. “Status of the Scorpius Low-Cost Launch Services Program.” Presented at the 10th AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, Technical Session VIII: Propulsion, http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/smallsat/1996/all1996/50/.