Encyclopedia Astronautica

Credit: Andrews
American winged orbital launch vehicle. Winged, horizontal-takeoff/horizontal concept space booster concept using an Air Collection and Enrichment System to generate liquid oxygen oxidiser from the atmosphere after takeoff. An upper rocket stage would deliver a crewed orbiter or payload to orbit.

Andrews Space, Inc., of Seattle, Washington, developed an In-flight Propellant Collection System, the "Alchemist" Air Collection and Enrichment System (ACES), which generated liquid oxygen (LOX) through the separation of atmospheric air. ACES took high-pressure air from turbofan jet engines flying at subsonic speeds and liquefied it by passing the air through a series of heat exchangers cooled by liquid nitrogen, liquid hydrogen, or both. Then, using a fractional distillation process, liquid oxygen was separated into its constituent parts and stored in propellant tanks for use by liquid hydrogen and LOX rocket engines. Alchemist ACES allowd horizontal take-off and landing launch vehicles to leave the ground without oxidizer, dramatically reducing their takeoff weight, increasing payload capability, or both.

The company proposed Alchemist ACES in conjunction with its two-stage-to-orbit RLV design, known as Gryphon, as well as for use in other horizontal take-off launch vehicles. Andrews Space carried out initial studies of the Alchemist ACES technology using internal funds, then under a NASA SBIR contract. Detailed feasibility studies and risk analyses were carried out under a NASA SLI contract. Critical components for the ACES system were in prototype hardware development at Andrews under a DARPA seedling contract. Future work involving design, fabrication, and test of a subscale all-up ACES system on board a flight vehicle was planned. ACES was first demonstrated in the 1960's for the USAF Aerospaceplane program.

Status: Study 2005.

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Associated Countries
See also
  • Winged In the beginning, nobody (except Jules Verne) thought anybody would be travelling to space and back in ballistic cannon balls. The only proper way for a space voyager to return to earth was at the controls of a real winged airplane. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • Andrews American manufacturer of rockets and spacecraft. Andrews, USA. More...

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