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The rocket

Published on:
October 9th 2018

“Because somewhere something incredible is waiting to be known.” (Carl Sagan)

Aerospace folks say the engine builds the airplane, not the other way around. Finishinthis past summer, we have now designed Pythom 1.0 - our first rocket - around it.

It’s one thing to reach the Karman line of 100 km (62 mi; 330,000 ft). Getting to orbit is harder. Only 9 countries and two private companies in the world have managed it so far; Spacex and Rocketlab. Pythom is built for orbit.

Our first challenge - the parameters - required solving a host of problems. Next, we made a blueprint.

During Apollo, blueprints would result in a mockup of the prototype, usually made in wood - to get a 3D feel for the shapes after which one would start cutting the metal.

These days blueprints are turned into 3D models in CAD software, and then you start gluing fiber and 3D print. This is rapid prototyping and rapid manufacturing, making things possible today that weren't yesterday.

If you have been with us since Contact software, before mobile phones and satellite modems, you may recall Contact was the only way to make live updates from extreme expeditions lacking heavy logistics.

To make it happen, we scaled down expedition tech from 20 lbs to 2 lbs and this is precisely our approach to Space.

Nothing like the launchers designed by Big Space, Pythom 1.0 is a small structure, scaled for the DARPA challenge. At payload capacity up to 100 kg, technically this rocket could service ISS.

Our primary goal though is going to other planets, personally. So how does our rocket relate to Mars?

The engines are an almost exact configuration of what we'll use for the Mars Lander. Further, a minor scale-up of this rocket could take the two of us into Earth orbit, to assembly parts for the transfer ship. Practicing for Earth orbit is really practicing for Mars.

This vehicle is built for DARPA but in effect, we build what we’ll fly.

Next up: Orbital mechanics, software, safety procedures.

Tina Sjogren
Tina Sjogren
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One Asterex vacuum engine will take the payload to the final destination. The vacuum version has a larger nozzle to maximize efficiency in space. The engine can be deep throttled, providing for deployment of multiple satellites in different orbits.

Asterex rocket engine cluster closeup. Each engine can be tilted (red actuators) to adjust and stabilize the flight. Two central manifolds distribute fuel and oxidizer. Total thrust at sea level is 45 000 kN, enough to lift an elephant.