Aphelion Aerospace is developing an ultra-low-cost rapid response launch system utilizing a novel environmentally friendly storable propellant mixture. A key component of our operational concept requires extensive automation from manufacturing through orbital insertion. What we propose under this SBIR topic is to conduct research and trade studies, research necessary to advance the automation of our ground test and launch operations software and processes by leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Our work will focus on several key areas. First, we will refine technologies to support automated propellant and fluid handling and management including hardware conditioning, propellant loading, monitoring and integrated health and status management during launch operations. As part of this work, we will develop sensor and software systems required for health monitoring fault management and real time corrective actions for propellant and propulsion systems of the launch vehicle. Systems that we develop will require both reactive and predictive capabilities to prevent off-nominal events and take corrective action when they do occur.
The purpose of this research is also to study use of this technology for remote and off-Earth applications. This is especially important when considering operations that take place on the lunar or Martian surface where communications delays render real time human control impractical or infeasible and the environment is unfavorable for extended human presence.
A primary potential NASA application is modernizing and improving the capabilities of existing test and launch facilities, such as those at Stennis and Kennedy Space Center. Additionally, there are applications for sample return missions from Mars or other locations. There is also a potential for utilization in human spaceflight systems to enhance reliability and crew safety during prelaunch and launch operations.
Commercial spaceports will find potential applications of this technology, especially ones that are developing or modernizing their infrastructure. Other launch providers, commercial or government, will potentially license this technology for incorporation into their own launch vehicles and ground support systems. There are potential non- aerospace applications in the transportation industry.