Radian Aerospace Advances Design and Fundraising for its Orbital Space Plane


Key Takeaways:
– Radian Aerospace, a startup based in Seattle, is progressing with the design of its reusable space plane and anticipates building a prototype this year.
– The company is currently raising funds, following a successful round of $27.5 million in 2022.
– The Radian One, a reusable winged space plane, is designed to transport up to five crew members and a considerable payload to low Earth orbit.
– A partnership with NASA’s Glenn Research Center is enabling high-temperature testing of Radian One’s Thermal Protection System.
– The propulsion system will now use methane and liquid oxygen, with a design alteration from three to five engines.
– The company aims for the full-scale Radian One to have its maiden flight by 2030.

Seattle-based startup, Radian Aerospace, is working diligently on the design of its orbital space plane and has plans to construct a subscale prototype as early as the current year. The innovative company is also in the process of a fresh investment round following an initial $27.5 million funding received previously in 2022. This round is expected to accrue more significant funds, according to the company’s co-founder and chief technology officer, Livingston Holder.

Planning for the Orbital Future


Radian Aerospace has spent two years developing a ground-breaking plan to build a reusable winged space plane. This unique aircraft, known as the single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) concept, has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of access to space. The space plane would be launched toward low Earth orbit via a rocket-propelled sled and its own rocket engines. Holder, a seasoned member of the aerospace industry and part of Boeing’s team for the SSTO project for NASA in the 90s, is quite familiar with the challenges of space tech.

Improved Materials and Renovated Propulsion Design


Materials have significantly improved, particularly on the composite side. Shields of composite materials have been actively used in the past and their use is now gaining momentum. Radian One, the company’s space plane, is being constructed with carbon matrix composites and equipped with a thermal protection system, which has started its testing phase in a partnership with NASA’s Glenn Research Center. The space plane plans to accommodate up to five crew members, along with up to 5,000 pounds of payload ascending and 10,000 pounds descending.

There are recent updates in the space plane’s propulsion system design. Typically, the system uses methane and liquid oxygen as propellants, replacing the previously planned LOX-kerosene mix. Holder notes a shift in the plan from three to five rocket engines, however, he refrains from revealing details about their power, except to say it will exceed the 200,000 pounds of thrust stated in the earlier design.

Next-Gen Engine Testing and Distributed Workforce


Radian Aerospace’s first batch of rocket engines underwent testing in Bremerton, Washington, which Holder believes can be still used in future generations of engines. The company is also leveraging the carbon-composite construction technology of the region, partnering with Janicki Industries and Electroimpact. Radian’s current base is technically in Renton, Washington, but its workforce is broad-based with around 24 staff that will potentially increase after the next funding round.

Prototyping and Future Prospects


Holder hints at plans to unveil a prototype vehicle later this year, providing crucial insight into the flight characteristics of the space plane. However, the company’s ultimate aim is to make the full-scale Radian One undertake its inaugural flight by 2030. This aligns with NASA’s transition from the International Space Station to a new generation of commercial space stations. The space plane may also engage in Defense Department missions related to reconnaissance and space domain awareness. Radian Aerospace, even though much smaller in size compared to SpaceX or Boeing, has its eyes set on carving out a significant niche for itself in the orbital ecosystem.

Jonathan Browne
Jonathan Brownehttps://livy.ai
Jonathan Browne is the CEO and Founder of Livy.AI

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