Building the future of space flight

Space launch today relies on chemical rocket technology which has remained largely unchanged for more than five decades. Chemical rockets can be optimized for large payloads and/or distant destinations but remain structurally risky and poorly address the needs of a rapidly growing small satellite market. Fundamental limitations of chemical propulsion and a shift towards small agile satellite development create a clear opportunity for disruptive change and a demand for new highly efficient propulsion systems.

Key challenges associated with chemical rockets include:

1. Prohibitive launch price ranging from $5-10K/kg (often above $40K/kg for small payloads).
2. Multi-manifest (i.e. launching as secondary payload) is ill-adapted for small and medium size payloads.
3. Long lead-time (years between payment and launch) and low reliability (launch dates not guaranteed).
4. High risk of launch failure, with close to 4% statistical failure rate.

Escape Dynamics is building a reusable single-stage-to-orbit launch system optimized for small and medium-size payloads and designed to operate like an airplane: the vehicle flies into orbit, delivers the payload and flies back.

This transition requires an order-of-magnitude increase in propulsion efficiency, which will be accomplished with EDI’s externally-powered propulsion system. Energy used for launch in our system comes from the electric grid and is delivered to a moving vehicle via a carefully controlled microwave beam from a phased array of antennas on the ground. The power is effectively unlimited in contrast to the limits faced by chemical rockets which rely on the chemical energy carried on-board. Our external propulsion system eliminates the need for combustion and increases efficiency more than ten times compared to chemical rockets with useful payload increasing from 2-3% to above 10% as a percentage of gross vehicle weight. Our system makes launch vehicles much simpler and more reliable, leveraging a fully-automated, scalable ground-based facility and dramatically increased engine efficiency.

Key advantages of our technology include:

1. Allows dedicated launches for small satellites (as primary payload) with very short lead times.
2. Reduces risk of failure by eliminating combustion and allowing for compact, simpler vehicles.
3. Allows reusability and single-stage-to-orbit flight, leading to airplane-like operation of space flight vehicles.