EcoRocket is designed around two main features: cost-effectiveness and eco-friendliness.
The EcoRocket program started in 2020, based on the ecological, extremely cost effective Launch Assist System (LAS) technology.
The EcoRocket program has two development phases:
Phase One: EcoRocket Demonstrator - a light vehicle, designed to launch a small payload into LEO.
Phase Two: EcoRocket Heavy - a heavy vehicle, able to launch 24 tons to LEO.
ARCA is currently performing ground, sea and launch tests for both the EcoRocket Demonstrator and Heavy.
Cold Reaction, Reusable First Stages
The vehicle is built entirely from composite materials.
The EcoRocket uses ecological, water-based propulsion technology for its first two stages, that are reusable. This is opposite to the current rocket engines that release polluting, toxic, carcinogenic compounds into the atmosphere.
The third stage uses hot propellant based on hydrogen peroxide 95% and kerosene, and it is expandable. The amount of polluting propellant for the whole rocket is 14%, and even so, the third stage ignites above 50 km altitude, the impact on the environment being highly reduced compared to the conventional rockets currently operational or planned.
All stages use the pressure feed system, instead of the extremely expensive pump feed system. In a pump feed system, the propellant is forced into the engine by a pump that is driven by a turbine that use a fraction of the rockets propellant to spin, or by using high power electric engines, while in the case of the pressure feed system, the propellant is forced into the engine by the pressure stored into an additional high pressure tank. We chose the later version for financial reasons. The weigh penalty in our case is extremely low compared to the pump feed system, as we have shown in an analysis sent to DARPA in 2016 for the Haas rocket. This is possible due to the fact that we were capable to develop extremely lightweight composite materials tanks.
The vehicle can be launched from sea or land, and depending of this, the first two stages can use either electric heating or an ecological chemical reaction of their water-based propellant.
The EcoRocket flight sequence is presented in this VIDEO.
The vehicle is transported on a Navy ship 20 miles off-shore from the naval base to a safety area that is under naval and aerial traffic management.
The rocket is offloaded from the ship and placed on the sea surface. Initially, the rocket will stay on the sea surface in horizontal position. The 2,500 kg ballast is lowered from the ship to the sea and is attached to the rocket’s bottom which will make the rocket switch to vertical position. That will make it ready for fuelling and pressurisation, the rocket being half submerged.
The ballast will have a buoy attached and will be recovered after the launch and brought back onboard the ship. Before engine start, the naval ship will manoeuvre at a distance of 1 km from the rocket.
The launch will be initiated by starting the first stage’s main engine. The rocket starts ascending, and at an altitude of 34 m, when it reaches the minimum velocity for aerodynamically stable flight, the ballast is detached.
The first stage engine will run for 34 s until the vehicle reaches an altitude of 7,500 m and a speed of 1,650 km/h.
At 7,500 m, the second stage will ignite to continue ascending for 59 s to an altitude of 50,000 m and a speed of 4,600 km/h.
The second and third stage will stay connected and will continue the inertial ascending. During ascent, they will perform a pitch and yaw manoeuvre alignment for orbit injection, using the RCS. After the alignment, the second and third stage will start spinning using the Second Stage onboard RCS's. The third stage will then separate and start its engine, which will run for a total of 173 s, increasing the vehicle’s speed to 28,500 km/h and an altitude of 220 km.
After the engine cut-off, the third stage is yo-yo de-spun and uses the onboard RCS’s to position the vehicle into the desired attitude for satellite deployment. The third stage engine is restartable as many times as desired, as it uses self-igniting propellants.
The first two stages have a strictly vertical trajectory, which is a unique flight profile compared to all other orbital vehicles that are bending their trajectory straight from the start. The EcoRocket’s first two stages fly straight up until it reaches space, and then the third stage is fired to place the payload into orbit.
The first stage will splashdown under its parachute, assisted by the Landing Engine. The second stage will splashdown using exclusively its parachute. Both stages will land in the same area, since their trajectory is vertical. This allows the naval vessel to execute a fast and precise recovery operation.
EcoRocket Technical Characteristics
First orbital launch rescheduled for 2024, due to the military situation in the Black Sea area.
EcoRocket Heavy is an ecological, reusable, unprecedentedly low-cost rocket, able to launch 24
tons to LEO. ARCA will use this rocket for the AMi Exploration, asteroid mining program.
EcoRocket Heavy will use the EcoRocket Demonstrator’s uprated first stage as a Propulsion Module (PM), which is an individual rocket in itself. Multiple PMs are strapped together to create a bigger, more capable structure, able to lift significantly more payload.