ADELANTO — In the quest to build a better rocket engine, an Adelanto company has invented a new gas-propelled engine that Eric Schmidt says is light years ahead of its time. Schmidt, the current mayor of Hesperia, is part of a team of engineers and rocket scientists at Exquadrum, a private contracting company that works on behalf of various components of the Department of Defense.

On Thursday, the company tested the Solid/Liquid Integrated Cycle Engine rocket propellant engine, presenting the project to other scientists from NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale.

According to Chief Engineer Dr. Marlow Moser, the new rocket engine is revolutionary for it’s gas propelled that doesn’t use the conventional and expensive rocket fuel ammonium perchlorate, a costly gas used in the space shuttle.

“AP is a type of rocket propellant that is getting expensive,” Moser said. “Even hybrid engines are good small but as you scale them up, there is problems with stability. Basically the engine runs rough and that’s what we’re trying to fix here.”

The fuel has increased in price as demand has decreased since the disbanding of the shuttle program.

“If you reduce the demand, then the price goes up,” Moser said. “Most companies and the military are now launching really small satellites and it’s not cost effective to use a huge vehicle to launch a small satellite.”

The rocket engine is intended for upper stages of the rocket launch and then to be sold to NASA and possibly the Air Force. The intent is to make launching small satellites into orbit cost effective.

Current nano satellites typically now only weigh 15 to 20 pounds making larger, hybrid engines less stable with a light payload. SLICE is a more stable engine that, according to Chief Engineer Sean Kenny, will be cheaper and easier to manage in orbit.

Moser said the gas generator propellant, patented by Exquadrum, burns like a solid rocket propellant but because of its high fuel content. It’s also more stable, Moser said, since it lacks oxidizer that would make it burn too fast and too quick.

“We demonstrated that when it’s just fuel you get black smoke,” Moser said. “Then as you add the oxidizer, it’s a nice bright plume that we can throttle with the oxidizer.”

Schmidt said that in light of all the rocket science talk, basically it’s good performance and better gas mileage.

“So here’s the takeaway: No one has ever done this before,” Schmidt said. “It’s brand new, never in the history of humans has this been done before. We are patenting it and our customer, NASA, is taking notice of our technology company in the Mojave River Valley that accomplished what no one has ever done before.”

″(Building it is) inexpensive — we can build these very quickly using modern building techniques,” Exquadrum CEO Kevin Mahaffy told the Daily Press. “If one of them goes bad, then we just throw the part away and make another one, where as if you use a full scale motor (and then) if someone messes up, it’s ‘uh-oh.’ ”

The propellants can also be shipped separately and at low cost, since the fuel-rich patented gas is not a hazardous material on its own.

“We can ship this on standard UPS ground — the oxygen is separate so it’s safe,” Mahaffy said. “The cool thing about this is it’s simpler than liquids and higher performance. When two propellants mix, they automatically ignite. We don’t have to have two different systems.”

A test of the project this week reportedly went well as the engineers locked themselves in the control room for safety, standing in front of flat-screen TVs that showed the test via Go-Pros.

“The test seemed to go very well,” Schmidt said, “but we have to wait and look at all the data to know for sure.”

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