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Astrobotic and AFRL Announce Rocket R&D Collaboration

Astrobotic's Xodiac. Credit Astrobotic
Astrobotic’s Xodiac. Credit Astrobotic

Ibadan, 4 April 2024. – Astrobotic and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Rocket Propulsion Division at Edwards Air Force Base have entered into a Cooperative Research & Development Agreement (CRADA) to enhance both organizations’ capabilities and collaborate in the development of advanced liquid rocket engines, rotating detonation rocket engine (RDRE) technologies, and on-base rocket flight testing capabilities using Astrobotic reusable rockets.

As a result, the CRADA will help Astrobotic design, develop, test, and demonstrate emerging commercial capabilities with critical applications to air and space military operations, including tactically responsive space access, hypersonic propulsion and testing, and tactical point-to-point rocket transport of cargo. Furthermore, under the collaboration, AFRL and Astrobotic plan to use Astrobotic’s Xodiac and Xogdor-class vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing (VTVL) rockets to flight test new liquid rocket engines, integrated systems, payloads, and concepts of operation to mature these types of capabilities.

To optimize this collaboration, Astrobotic will co-locate parts of its Propulsion & Test department with AFRL subject matter experts at Edwards Air Force Base. The CRADA also provides Astrobotic access to facilities on AFRL’s “Rocket Ridge” at Edwards AFB, which has hosted development and testing of engines for numerous high-profile launch vehicles. Working together on base will consequently allow the teams to more closely collaborate on the development of emerging liquid rocket and RDRE technologies.

Speaking on the CRADA, Sean Bedford, Astrobotic’s Director of Business Development, commented, “This agreement represents a unique partnership that will combine our strengths with AFRL’s subject matter expertise to accelerate the development of key capabilities through collaborative design, cutting-edge analysis, high-cadence ground experimentation, and relevant environment flight testing.” The Director also added, “This CRADA between Astrobotic and AFRL will leverage the parties’ complementary skillsets to achieve mutually beneficial goals.”

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