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Nitrous Oxide Ethane Ethylene Engine

Award Information

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2013 / SBIR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Pioneer Astronautics
11111 West 8th Avenue, Unit A Lakewood, CO 80215-5516
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Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No
Phase 1
Fiscal Year: 2013
Title: Nitrous Oxide Ethane Ethylene Engine
Agency: NASA
Contract: NNX13CM10P
Award Amount: $124,660.00


The Nitrous Oxide Ethane-Ethylene (NEE) engine is a proposed technology designed to provide spacecraft with non-toxic non-cryogenic high-performance propulsion. With the NEE engine, nitrous oxide is used as an autogenously pressurizing oxidizer, and a mixture of ethane and ethylene is used in the same manner as fuel. Initially, the ethane and ethylene mixture have the same vapor pressure as the nitrous oxide. By utilizing the autogenous pressurization capabilities of these propellants instead of an additional pressurization system greater system simplicity and reliability can be attained. Achievable specific impulse with pure N2O is about 315 s, which can be raised above 325 s by dissolving some O2 in the N2O. Catalytic ignition can be achieved by using a ruthenium reactor to exothermically dissociate N2O. Since both propellants can exist as a liquid in the same temperature range, no thermal separation is required, and the two propellants can be stored together in compact common bulkhead tanks, and freezing is not an issue down to -90C. Pioneer Astronautics has demonstrated monopropellant nitrous oxide thrusters with a specific impulse of 190 s. Using such nitrous oxide monopropellant engines for low thrust RCS together with the NEE for ??V and larger thrust reaction control propulsion, it will be possible to build spacecraft propulsion systems that are completely storable and non-toxic, with only two propellant fluids required. In the proposed program, we will demonstrate a NEE engine.

Principal Investigator:

Robert Zubrin
Principal Investigator

Business Contact:

Robert Zubrin
Business Official
Small Business Information at Submission:

Pioneer Astronautics
11111 West 8th Avenue, Unit A Lakewood, CO 80215-5516

EIN/Tax ID: 841322304
Number of Employees:
Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No