Light Weight Controllable Thrust Actuation (MDA)


Dynamic Structures and Materials, LLC
MDA 09-001      Awarded: 4/30/2010

Title:Light Weight Controllable Thrust Actuation for Innovative Propulsion System for Missile Defense Interceptors


Lightweight Divert and Attitude Control Systems (DACS) can improve the mass fraction and specific impulse capabilities of propulsion systems for future MDA platforms. Proposed is the development of a novel DACS valve and actuator to provide improved capabilities for a wide range of future systems. DSM has teamed with a leading missile defense engine provider to produce a much lighter DACS system with high mass fraction. Compared to standard DACS, the new system will require less than 25% f the typical actuation force to control the same amount of thrust. Typically, reductions to control system mass, power and size follow the same reduction in force. Therefore, DSM anticipates requiring significantly less of the traditional controller mass, size and power in this new DACS system. The lightweight system benefits overall system response through faster reaction times and greater delta velocity. The savings in mass and power can be used to benefit overall system mass leading to either longer mission duration or lower amounts of propellant. DSM will demonstrate the capability of this novel technology with a cold flow test at the missile defense engine contractor’s facility.




TITLE: Innovative Propulsion Systems for Missile Defense Interceptors


The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals, their country of origin, and what tasks each would accomplish in the statement of work in accordance with section 3.5.b.(7) of the solicitation.

OBJECTIVE:  Develop innovative technologies for propulsion systems for Ballistic Missile Interceptors.  The goal is to develop high mass fraction motors (> 0.9) and propellants that have high specific impulse (> 275 with a goal of 300) while that are suitable for use in the operational environment.  It is also desired that these technologies reduce cost; improve reliability; meet DoD insensitive munitions (IM) objectives; remain stable in long term silo storage and/or mobile environments; are tolerant of many sea level to high altitude environmental cycles; deliver Thrust Vector Control (TVC) and variable thrust; reduce maintenance requirements; and incorporate non-destructive integrity inspection / test features.

DESCRIPTION:  Increased interceptor terminal velocity and reduced overall time of flight are desired to increase system battlespace for operations with off-board sensors, to address advanced threats and degraded or alternate sensor handover capability. In particular, addressing the challenges for ascent phase engagement will require advanced propulsion systems for missile defense interceptors. Innovative development in the following enabling technologies is desired:

Innovative test solutions simulating pre and post dynamics of hypersonic missiles during the staging event are desired. Such solutions should give insight into the separation aerodynamics with the goal of minimizing flight timeline maneuvering constraints.

Advanced propellant chemistry resulting in improved specific performance, packaging, operational flexibility, and maintenance / support requirements are desired. Low toxicity, high performance, and suitability for application in cold and airborne environments are necessary technology features.

Innovative applications of unconventional propulsion (e.g., hybrid, alternate architecture, etc.) technologies are desired to increase mission flexibility, system performance and safety. Emphasis should be placed on the use of more environmentally and operationally “friendly” propellants (i.e., low toxicity, insensitive), with little or no decrease in impulse and response performance relative to current state of the art alternatives.

Booster component design and material advancements enabling performance, packaging, durability, manufacturability, and cost improvements are desired. Examples of such technologies include but are not limited to: a) Motor case technology - high strength, high stiffness and lightweight polymer matrix or metal matrix composite cases and liner/insulation materials and processes; b) Integral vehicle health monitoring - research into technologies related to "cradle-to-grave" monitoring of solid rocket motor cases, including sensors, fiber optics or conventional wiring, readout electronics, and diagnostic or prognostic software/hardware; c)Thrust Vector Control technologies – High vectoring magnitude and response capability at reduced system power, mass, and volume footprint.

PHASE I:  Demonstrate proof of concept of the proposed propulsion technology. Identify candidate materials, designs and/or test capabilities. Fabricate and characterize materials for component technologies or define proof of capabilities test concepts. For propellant improvements, conduct research and experimental efforts to quantify potential benefits (e.g., impulse improvement, packaging improvement, storage and environmental benefits).

PHASE II:  Develop and demonstrate prototype designs incorporating Phase I technology in a relevant test environment. Develop and document design and/or test approaches. Perform appropriate characterization and testing, e.g. sub-scale motor tests, accelerated long term storage and / or cyclic environmental load compatibility testing, and IM related testing such as fast and slow cook-off. Conduct Proof of capabilities aerodynamic testing as appropriate for innovative testing of advanced axial booster designs. A partnership with the current or potential supplier of BMDS element systems, subsystems, or components is highly desirable.

PHASE III:  Conduct engineering and manufacturing development, test and evaluation and hardware qualification. Demonstration would include, but not be limited to, demonstration in a real system or operation in a system level test-bed with insertion planning for a missile defense interceptor.

COMMERCIALIZATION:  Axial rocket and missile propulsion technology has direct applicability to DoD, commercial and NASA launch capability. Component technologies, e.g. high temperature materials, can have broad industrial application in chemical processing, energy production and manufacturing.


1. George P. Sutton, “Rocket Propulsion Elements: an Introduction to the Engineering of Rockets.” 7th Edition, John Wiley & Sons, 2001.

2. Palaszewski, Bryan, ‘Propellant Technologies: A Persuasive Wave of Future Propulsion Benefits’, NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH, Feb. 1997.,

3. US DoD Insensitive Munitions Program Anthony J. Melita ,

KEYWORDS: Propulsion, Materials, Chemical Compatibility, Propellants, Insensitive Munitions, Hybrid Propulsion, Green Propellants