Mid-January Asterex hot-fired for the first time. A few months later we fired at 10 MPa, reaching goal pressure and 90% of the target total thrust. We did it on a storable propellant that also works for travel in space.
The engine checked out, Black Magic was the last unknown. Another Pythom invention, born out of our unique need to travel fast and small, could we trust the design and the math?
Miniaturizing tech is actually our forte, this is what landed us on the front page of the NYT back in the days of Contact software. If you went to remote wilderness and wanted to be in touch (without bringing a truck), you'd call Tom at HumanEdgeTech.
But still, this is a rocket, not a high-tech comms Pelican case.
Following a successful money-raising trek to Europe, we returned to California in July to put our thinking to the test.
A strange shape materialized at the rocket shop: A metal cage, 12 ft tall, shielded pipes and valves snaking in intricate patterns. A big water container towered above. The setup impressed even a NASCAR driver who came to visit on a private jet. "It's sort of like a piston-less car engine," mused Tom as they both watched the creation breathe.
Our goal is to have a propulsion system that works throughout the entire space mission. Leaving Earth, landing on Mars, leaving Mars, and returning to Earth. Black Magic would make it possible to run the engine at twice the pressure of any other smallsat rocket. But would it work?
Finally, time came for judgment day. We stood around in silent awe as we watched the massive machine return the results. The goal was to reach full-cycle rotations of 10 seconds or less; we got 5. The apparatus gave off eerie hissing and puffing sounds. "By God," chirped Tina, "we'll ride to space on a locomotive."
With that, we have enough data to build the flying version and Pythom is moving from experimental to a manufacturing phase. The shop is completely remodeled into stations for production.
We're making space for large aluminum sheets and building a roomy, fully enclosed welding cage. The CNC machine park is moving across the street, but we're keeping the electronics, software, and propellant lab in the main building. We count to be done next week and that’s when welding of the tanks begins.
We'll check back in again when the structure is stacked.
Hard to think only two years have passed since Pythom got seed funding and started manufacturing. Our first full-scale engine was fire tested only nine months later, in spring last year. It reached a record 10Mpa chamber pressure shortly after, at 90% thrust efficiency.