InterOrbital Systems

With more than 24 “we plan to launch” commercial rocket startups entering the business, and with only 2 (Scaled Composites with SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo, and SpaceX’s Falcon) getting serious press time, it is difficult to describe a generic rocket profile. However, we can look at InterOrbital Systems’ to view a detailed briefing of one modular approach into low earth orbit.

IOS’s modular rocket system (the Neptune) is about to test a one-module Common Propulsion Module (CPM) as a sounding rocket/flight test. The company has a completed rocket, mobile launch rail, and FAA permit. All its rocket plans use one or more CPMs, bundled for the mission needs. One CPM is a suborbital (ballistic) launch, but IOS is not interested in suborbital.

The company’s stance is that suborbital is not a natural progression to orbit; it can be a dead end. Orbital is where it’s at. Noted IOS’s CEO, Randa Milliron, “I can’t stand to see things stop at suborbital, like it’s the be-all end-all definition of space flight. It’s fine as a start, if you consider moving up from that.”

The one-CPM “SR145” will list 145 kilos to 310km ballistic. Bundle together seven CPMs, you get the Neptune, doing low earth orbit (LEO) missions. More, you get the Moon. But we’re getting ahead of things.

Right now, the company uses a mobile launch system. Tests are currently north of Mohave, in the Mohave Test Site. Tests use a FAA Class 3 waiver, so it’s not a fully fueled launch. Upcoming orbital launches ...

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