Huntsville company developing cheaper ways to launch rockets

Updated: Jul. 15, 2020 at 11:52 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A Huntsville company is ready to remind the world why the city has the nickname “Rocket City.”

Sending satellites into space doesn’t have to break the bank, at least eventually. That’s the message from Chris Barker, the president of Earth to Sky.

His team is getting ready for a rocket engine test.

“This company is founded on significant understanding of rockets, with a heritage that goes back to the German rocket scientists of the Dr. Von Braun team here in Huntsville. We were advised by them in the development of this technology,” said Barker.

Kerosene and liquid oxygen are some of the components used to fire the engine, giving a rocket enough power and speed to enter orbit.

The ingredients are affordable, and a lot cheaper than what other companies are trying to use, which means it will be cheaper to launch a satellite into space if everything works and goes according to plan.

“What Chris Barker and his team are trying to do with this development is to lower the cost to access space for small satellites. Within the last decade there has been a significant shrinking of the scale of satellites,” said Dale Thomas, director of Alabama Space Grant Consortium.

Smaller satellites means smaller rockets to get the job done.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that all of this equipment is complex.

“Our particular rocket engine here will generate up to 16,000 pounds of force, which in equivalent terms is about 18,000 horse power,” said Barker.

State Sen. Steve Livingston says smaller engines like this and using smaller rockets is great news, but he wants these rockets to get launched into space without having to cross state lines.

Alabama does this now, when rockets like the Space Launch System components built in Decatur are transported to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"They have a great idea of being able to use an offshore launch platform in South Alabama off of Mobile Bay perhaps using one of the oil rigs down there that's been retired for a mission control situation and launching off of barge so there's no damage to the rig it sounds like a great opportunity for Alabama," said Livingston.

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