A large majority of commercial and NASA spacecraft mission types would benefit from the ability to have deployable aerodynamic decelerators. Beneficial applications include spacecraft returning to Earth from low Earth orbit, exploring other planetary bodies (e.g. descent to Mars, Venus, and Titan), and reducing the cost of access to space by enabling the recovery of launch vehicle assets.
Current deployable aerodynamic decelerators are constrained by existing blowdown system limitations including mass efficiency, and long term storage of high pressure gas. Hydrogen, while an ideal candidate for its storage capacity, has high leak rates when considering long duration missions and transits. Gas generators provide a solution that has a higher density than cryogenic liquid hydrogen, however, these hydrogen generators are yet to be a space qualified technology.
In this effort, Outpost Technologies Corporation (Outpost) will develop GasPak which is a low mass and clean gas generator that will be used for hypersonic inflatables on space missions. In order to achieve this goal Outpost will leverage its relationship with Dutch company TNO to procure commercial off the shelf nitrogen gas generators to be used in a feasibility study and benchtop prototype. From these steps a hydrogen gas generator will be designed and brought to a PDR-level by the end of Phase I. By the end of Phase II, the gas generator will reach TRL-8 by being demonstrated on an orbital Outpost mission with Earth return.
The primary NASA application will be Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerators (HIADs) as planned for use on missions to planets and moons with atmospheres as well as returning payloads to Earth. Additionally, GasPak may be used in substitution for other single use pressurant systems such as deployment of spacecraft components and planetary landing impact suppression.
Outpost will use the GasPak technology in its own reusable satellites to deploy the heat shield for re-entry. Commercially, Outpost is enabling a new means of Earth return that allows satellites to be brought back to Earth and refurbished for future missions.