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Beal Aerospace was a launch vehicle development company, founded in February 1997 by Andrew Beal, president of Beal Bank in Dallas, Texas. The goal of the company was to build and operate a privately developed heavy lift orbital launch vehicle. It ceased operations on October 23, 2000.
After being founded in 1997, employment grew to approximately 200 people at the company's peak in late 1999. A rocket engine test facility was successfully established in McGregor, Texas. Ambitious plans were made to establish a launch pad on Sombrero Island in Anguilla, and to mass-produce launch vehicles in the Virgin Islands, but environmentalists were fiercely opposed to these development plans. Despite a number of impressive technical achievements, the company ran into a series of problems, both political and technical. Employee layoffs began in early 2000.
Following NASA's announcement that they would fund research and development of competing launch vehicles under the Space Launch Initiative (SLI), Andrew Beal announced on October 23, 2000 that Beal Aerospace would cease operations. This sudden announcement caught most of the remaining employees by surprise. Although citing NASA's unfair commercial practices as the primary reason for closing, other factors such as development schedule delays, cost growth, and a shrinking commercial launch market, are widely believed[by whom?] to have contributed to Beal's decision to cease operations.
Beal Aerospace initially considered a rocket that used kerosene and liquid oxygen, but soon switched to kerosene fuel in combination with high concentration hydrogen peroxide oxidizer. This combination was selected in order to avoid the expense and complexity of cryogenic storage, and to reduce development costs. Kerosene was injected into the hot steam and oxygen exhaust products of catalytically decomposed hydrogen peroxide, resulting in spontaneous ignition. The original BA-1 launch vehicle design was intended to service the LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellite constellation launch market, but was replaced by the much larger BA-2 design when it was decided to concentrate on the more stable Geostationary satellite launch market as the LEO constellations became financially unsound. All three stages of the BA-2 vehicle were to be pressure-fed using high-pressure helium storage to replace the expense and complexity of turbopumps. All of the BA-2 propellant tanks and primary structures were to be manufactured from lightweight composite materials. The engines were self-cooled with ablative materials.
- List of private spaceflight companies - A compiled list of private spaceflight companies
- "Beal Aerospace regrets to announce that it is ceasing all business operations effective October 23, 2000" (Press release). Beal Aerospace. 2000-03-23. Retrieved 2007-06-21.
- Beal Aerospace homepage
- Encyclopedia Astronautica information on Beal Aerospace
- Aerospace company failed to get the needed U.S. approval for Guyana launches - July 23, 1999