Interorbital Systems

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Interorbital Systems Corporation
Industry Aerospace
Founded 1996
Headquarters Mojave, California
Key people Rod Milliron and Randa Milliron (founders)
Products Orbital rocket launch Commercial Orbital Transportation Services

Interorbital Systems Corporation (IOS) is an American aerospace company based in Mojave, California. It was founded in 1996 by Roderick and Randa Milliron, who also co-founded Trans Lunar Research.

Interorbital Systems is currently working on a line of launch vehicles aimed at winning the Google Lunar X Prize. The company was also a competitor for both the Ansari X-Prize[1] and America's Space Prize.[2]

Current research and development[edit]

In 2007, Interorbital Systems was pursuing two separate lines of research.[3] The first is Sea Star TSAAHTO, a small rocket capable of delivering small satellite payloads into orbit,[4] and so generate capital for pursuing the companies flagship program: the Neptune; a line of launch vehicles designed to put humans into orbit.[5]

Common Propulsion Module[edit]

All of Interorbital's rocket designs are based on the Common Propulsion Module (CPM). The CPM is a small, self-contained rocket system. Multiple CPMs are combined through parallel staging to meet varying mission requirements. Though they have experimented with cryogenic fuel, Interorbital currently uses the green, storable, hypergolic White fuming nitric acid and Turpentine, derived from pine trees and quaker oats, for oxidizer and fuel. The CPM is designed to maximize simplicity - it uses no turbopumps and no ignition system (because of the hypergolic propellants).[6]

The Common Propulsion Module Test Vehicle (CPM TV) performed its first successful test flight on March 29, 2014. The payloads included two CubeSats, a SYNERGY MOON payload and a Red Hot Chili Peppers album. The rocket reached an altitude of 10,000 feet and will be reused for the next test flight. All payloads were recovered intact; these payloads were not released to orbit.[7]

Orbital spaceflight program[edit]

Neptune[8] is a line of launch vehicles, consisting of the Neptune 30, the Neptune 45, the Neptune 1000, and the Neptune TSAAHTO. All of these configurations are based on combinations of "common propulsion modules" (CPM, essentially long tubes of rocket fuel). The liquid oxidizer and fuel used is white fuming nitric acid (WFNA) and Hydrocarbon-X (HX).[8]

The Neptune 45's maiden launch was planned for 2011, but as of March 2014 no flights had taken place, as the CPM component was being test-launched for the first time.[7] As of mid-2010, Interorbital Systems claimed a manifest to deliver 32 TubeSats and 10 CubeSats.

  • The Neptune 30 delivers 30 kilo payloads into low Earth orbit. It is a three-stage rocket composed of five CPM.
  • The Neptune 45 delivers 45 kilo payloads into low Earth orbit. It is a three-stage rocket composed of seven CPM. These two configurations are intended for launching CubeSats, TubeSats, and other small satellites.
  • The Neptune 1000 is designed to launch a one tonne payload into low-earth orbit or a 190 kg payload to Earth escape velocity. The rocket is composed of 33 common propulsion modules, and makes up the Interorbital Systems's contribution to SYNERGY MOON a three-company attempt to win the Google Lunar X Prize.
  • The Neptune TSAAHTO, the largest design, can be fitted to carry either cargo or human passengers. To do so, the Crew Module has been designed. This space capsule is to be capable of housing five crew members and a pilot, and sits atop the Neptune TSAAHTO during launch. The rocket itself is composed of eight large common propulsion modules and eight small common propulsion modules and can place a 7,000-pound payload into a 250-mile 51° orbit.

Sounding rockets[edit]

Interorbital Systems has successfully tested a number of rocket engines in the 500-5,000 lbf (2 to 22 kN) thrust range and conducted flight tests of its small testbed, Neutrino. Neutrino is a sounding rocket designed for low-altitude suborbital flight, for the purpose of testing systems of its larger follow-on rockets.

IOS holds an active Office of Commercial Space Transportation Launch License for Tachyon,[9] a sounding rocket designed for a 120-mile apogee suborbital flight.

Retired designs[edit]

SolarX was a suborbital rocket design that was IOS' attempt to win the Ansari X Prize. It did not get off the ground in time and was beaten by Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne.[10]

Launch sites[edit]

Interorbital Systems' prototypes are all designed to be amphibious (capable of launch from land or sea). Although IOS currently tests its spacecraft at the Mojave Airport & Spaceport and conducts testbed launches from the Mojave Desert,[11] it plans to develop and implement a method for launching directly from the water without a launch platform. The vehicle is towed into position by a 33 m (100 ft) crew boat, then a ballast is suspended from the submerged tail-section to provide proper orientation and stability during launch. According to IOS, sea launches are inherently less dangerous than land launches because they reduce the chance of damage to people or property in the event of a failed launch. As a result it is easier and less expensive to obtain a license for sea operations, and the added bonus of extra orbital velocity resulting from a launch directly on the equator. At the same time Interorbital Systems is seeking permission from the U.S. Department of State to build their own land based spaceport on the island of ʻEua, Kingdom of Tonga.[12] This spaceport will be run under US laws.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "X PRIZE Team Summary Sheet: Interorbital Systems". X PRIZE Foundation. 
  2. ^ Boyle, Alan (October 8, 2004). "Space racers set sights on orbital frontier: After X Prize, some rivals seek more lucrative payoff". MSNBC. 
  3. ^ "Interorbital Talk to The Space Fellowship about the Google Lunar X-Prize, progress and landing rovers on the Moon". Space Fellowship. September 23, 2007. 
  4. ^ "SEA STAR TSAAHTO". Interorbital Systems. Archived from the original on 2012-05-13. 
  5. ^ "Space Tourism". Fast Track. BBC News. 2008. 
  6. ^ "Synergy Moon Presentation at 2011 GLXP Summit". YouTube. 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ a b "Neptune Modular Series Launch Vehicles". Interorbital Systems. Archived from the original on 2013-02-26. 
  9. ^ Milliron, Randa (2006-05-28). "Advantages of Using White Fuming Nitric Acid (WFNA) as an oXidizer in Rockets". Lunar Lander Challenged. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  10. ^ "Space racers set sights on orbital frontier". MSNBC. 2004-10-08. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  11. ^ "Company". Interorbital Systems. Archived from the original on 2013-03-03. 
  12. ^ "Spaceport Tonga". Interorbital Systems. Archived from the original on 2013-03-03. 

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