21 July 1997
News - Vehicles (None)
Pioneer Rocketplane Unveils New Vehicle Design
Pioneer selected by NASA for Bantam program
Company Press Release

Pioneer Rocketplane Corporation today unveiled the new design for its Pathfinder reusable rocketplane, selected recently by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center for the Cycle I phase of the Bantam Systems Technology Program Flight Demonstrator program. Pathfinder is a piloted aircraft which employs both existing jet and rocket engines.

The primary change to the vehicle's early design is the relocation of the two jet engines to the dorsal surface on either side of the vertical tail fin. This move has allowed two other important system improvements: the elimination of complex moving parts on critical leading edges of the vehicle, and the simplification of the delta wing structure. These three improvements have lead to a more simplified rocketplane system.

Pathfinder takes off from a conventional runway under its own power loaded with fuel, but empty of oxidizer. The aircraft receives the necessary oxidizer from an airborne tanker, which transfers to it a large amount of liquid oxygen. After separation from tanker, the aircraft ignites its rocket engine and leaves the atmosphere. The payload bay of the aircraft is opened and a small upper stage, with payload attached, is released. This upper stage delivers the payload into its final orbit, and is expended. By using upper stages of various sizes, payloads from the very small up to 5,000 pounds can be economically delivered to low-Earth orbit. The aircraft, meanwhile, reenters the atmosphere, reignites its jet engines, and lands on any ordinary runway.

NASA's Bantam program is an effort to significantly lower the cost of access to space for small satellites. Pioneer was the sole applicant selected to pursue a reusable launch vehicle concept in response to this NASA Research Announcement (NRA).

Pioneer Rocketplane is an entrepreneurial space company founded to develop revolutionary aviation technologies and vehicles. Such new transatmospheric vehicles, made possible by the incorporation of rocket propulsion, will enable the inexpensive launch of satellites, global same-day package delivery, and a wide range of other innovative applications. Pioneer Rocketplane is based in Denver, Colorado.

Contact:Laura Ayres, 703-212-8875

This would appear to eliminate Pioneer Rocketplane as a contender for the X-Prize, as a condition of the competition is that it should be privately funded - SFJ
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21 July 1997
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