ABL Space Systems makes rapid progress on its rocket testing

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California-based rocket developer ABL Space Systems has completed integrated stage testing of the RS1 small-satellite launch vehicle.

Testing was performed on the RS1 second stage with the in-house designed E2 liquid rocket engine at the Area 1-56 test site on Edwards Air Force Base.

Critical aspects of the test campaign included handling of the propellant tanks, operating pressurant management systems, and refining the stage arming and engine startup sequences, all of which were accomplished successfully. This latest test campaign builds on the successes of eighteen months of extensive component, engine and stage testing, said ABL Space Systems.

Dan Piemont, ABL Founder and President said, “Every day we are humbled by our goal to raise the standard for rapid, efficient launch vehicle development.

“Folks who know orbital launch know that integrated stage testing is the first real proof of capability. To get here in just three years with under 75 people validates the advantages of our approach.”

ABL manufactures engines and stages in El Segundo, California and is developing its launch vehicle to be produced using a low-cost and scalable manufacturing processes.  RS1 can deliver one metric ton to sun synchronous orbit, 400kg to geosynchronous transfer orbit, and 250kg to lunar injection orbit.

“Simplicity is key,” said Harry O’Hanley, Founder and CEO of ABL. “Our company is just over three years old.  Yet, we’ve moved markedly faster and been more capital efficient than others because we avoid exotic, unproven architectures and manufacturing processes.  Unless an innovation adds measurable value to our customer, we do not pursue it.”

ABL supports a variety of customers throughout the defense, civil and commercial sectors, with over US$44 million in announced contracts and a deep customer backlog.

ABL plans to continue performing stage test operations at Edwards Air Force Base in the coming weeks to accumulate additional run time on the engine and stage. The launch vehicle system will undergo a series of stress tests to demonstrate performance in a variety of different flight conditions.

RS1 is scheduled for an initial launch in the first quarter of 2021 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, where ABL has received a Right of Entry for LC-576E from the 30th Space Wing.

“Our team is high-performance, focused and thorough.  During this campaign, we executed multiple hotfire operations every day,”  said O’Hanley. “We obsess over attention to detail and will apply this same tenacity to our upcoming Stage 1 operations.  The first flight Stage 1 will roll out of our facility at the end of this year, destined to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base.”

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before eventually becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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