Ursa Major reports successful hotfire testing of Draper liquid rocket engine

June 3, 2024

Ursa Major Technologies Inc has announced the successful March hotfire of its Draper engine at the company’s headquarters (Courtesy Ursa Major)
Ursa Major Technologies Inc has announced the successful March hotfire of its Draper engine at the company’s headquarters (Courtesy Ursa Major)

Ursa Major Technologies Inc., located in Berthoud, Colorado, USA, has reported the successful hotfire testing of its Draper engine. Ursa Major uses metal Additive Manufacturing to develop and manufacture its rocket engines. The recent testing is reported as a milestone for the liquid engine, first announced in May 2023.

Drawing on the architectural and manufacturing legacy of Ursa Major’s Hadley engine, Draper combines the storable attributes of a solid rocket motor with active throttle control and throttle range of a liquid engine, providing the manoeuvrability and flexibility that is needed for hypersonic defence. It is this unique design that allows the engine to effectively simulate hypersonic threats and makes the engine well-equipped to address the critical gap in America’s hypersonic capabilities.

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The 4,000-pound-thrust closed catalyst engine uses a non-cryogenic fuel that optimises storability, making the engine uniquely suited for in-space propulsion applications. Based on its thrust profile, the engine is not only capable of manoeuvring objects in orbit but doing so without fully depleting its store of propellant, potentially allowing for additional mission functions.

“We’re excited with how quickly the development programme has progressed and look forward to fielding the engine for hypersonics and in-space applications in the coming years,” Brad Appel, Chief Technology Officer at Ursa Major, stated.

The Draper engine is suitable for tactical hypersonics, missile defence and in-space propulsion (Courtesy Ursa Major)
The Draper engine is suitable for tactical hypersonics, missile defence and in-space propulsion (Courtesy Ursa Major)

The development and testing of Draper are supported by funding from a contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). The funding was also directed to building the Draper-specific test stand at Ursa Major’s headquarters in Berthoud, Colorado, which has and will continue to allow for greater testing capabilities and, in turn, quicker iteration and development of the Draper engine.

“Perhaps the most-impressive aspect of this programme is the delivery of a versatile, storable rocket engine in such an incredibly short timeframe. AFRL and industry is taking on the challenge our USAF and USSF leadership has asked of us…to deliver faster capabilities, craft tighter bonds with industry, and leverage what is already in existence to provide asymmetric advances. And thankfully, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what we are doing as One Team,” said Dr Shawn Phillips, Chief of AFRL’s Rocket Propulsion Division.

Following this successful engine hotfire, Ursa Major intends to continue a development campaign and mature the engine towards flight qualification.



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