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World’s first electric rocket going to debut this year

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Space travel has seen tremendous advances in the fields of Avionics,
Robotics and Materials engineering. The risk and difficulty factors have
been reduced to minimum levels. But in relation to cost and range, we have
been lingering in the stone age since the very start of our space
endeavors. It is due to the monstrous fuel consumption of contemporary
rocket thrusters that we have been stuck here. It makes it difficult to
maintain cost efficiency no matter what we do in other fields.
In order to decrease the fuel consumption associated with each rocket
launch, Rocket Labs Inc. have come up with a concept of their electrical
powered rocket nicknamed “Electron Launch Vehicle”. 

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With this
advancement, the company envisages that number of satellite launches
could increase to the basic milestone of 100 a year at one-tenth the
cost of conventional rockets. The main reason for their advancement is
the new Rutherford engine. 

The Rutherford engine is the first engine to have all of its primary
parts made from 3-D printing techniques, but the increased efficiency
isn’t exactly related to the new manufacturing processes. Rather, it is
attributed to the use of electrical pumps to pumps propellants into the
combustion chamber. In previous rockets, it was done by turboprops
running on gas turbines and consuming tons of fuel unnecessarily.

In the Electron Launch Vehicle, on the other hand, the gas turbine is
replaced with an electrically powered brushless DC motor. The motor is
powered by Lithium-Polymer batteries. 
With the help of this
revolutionary advancement, the engine can produce 4600 lbf of thrust at
an impulse of 327 seconds. 
The propellant fuel also undergoes minor
changes with a mixture of mixture of Liquid Oxygen and RP-1 rocket fuel
being used. RP-1 is a further refined form of jet fuel jp-8 and kerosene
oil.
In the initial modeling done by the company, the rocket having
Dimensions 1m (D) and 20m (l) can carry a 100 Kg load 500 Km into the
space. 

According to Rocket Labs, the Electron Launch Vehicle can send
load into a synchronous orbit with the same amount of fuel as a Boeing
747 takes for a flight from New York to Los Angeles. The
carbon-composite construction and propriety thermal protection from
cryogenics ensure light weight and thermal resistance properties. The
cost per launch is 4.9 million dollars.
The company is also working on space versions of this rocket with a
major difference in nozzle sizes. The first test flight of this
ingenious machine is slated to be undertaken at the end of this year.
Commercial flights could start as early as 2016.

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