Astraius Selects Throttleable Motor For Three-Stage Space Launcher

Astraius plans to launch satellites from a new spaceport in Scotland.
Credit: Astraius

FARNBOROUGH—UK-based horizontal space launch company Astraius has selected Northrop Grumman and Exquadrum to be suppliers for a three-stage rocket system. 

Northrop’s Orion solid rocket motor will form the first and second stages of the Astraius system, and Exquadrum will supply the upper-stage motor, Astraius said on July 19 at the Farnborough Airshow. 

The three-stage rocket will be launched from a Boeing C-17 to be leased from the US Air Force. The rocket will be extracted from the cargo bay of the strategic airlifter, then the first-stage Orion motor will ignite. A bespoke Exquadrum upper stage for Astraius will then place satellites in orbit. 

Astraius says the company is on track to complete a first launch in spring 2024 from Prestwick Spaceport, UK.

“I am thrilled that Northrop Grumman motors will play a major role in our program,” Astraius CEO Kevin Seymour says.

The concept also offers a transition opportunity for Exquadrum’s throttleable rocket motor. The small California company tested the throttleable motor on the ground in the competition for DARPA’s Operational Fires (OpFires) variable-range tactical missile program. DARPA selected a competing design by Aerojet Rocketdyne for the OpFires missile, but has yet to test the throttleable upper-stage in flight. 

Although offered for the tactical missile program, Exquadrum has said that the throttleable motor could also be applied to satellite launchers. 

“Exquadrum’s controllable solid rocket motor technology, with its throttlability and precise termination ability, is an excellent fit for Astraius’ upper stage application,” Exquadrum CEO Kevin Mahaffy says. 

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.