ADVANCED PROPULSION AND ENERGY SYSTEMS: ORBITEC is developing the Dual-Mode Water Rocket Propulsion system, a flexible in-space propulsion system that relies on water as propellant feedstock for both chemical and electric propulsion modes. Both propulsion modes rely on solar-derived electric power.

To operate in chemical propulsion mode, water is electrolyzed to produce hydrogen and oxygen gas. These gaseous propellants are then intermittently burned to produce thrust in ORBITECís Stoichiometric Combustion Rocket Engine (SCORE), a high-performance chemical thruster which relies on ORBITECís vortex cold-wall technology to deliver high efficiency in the challenging environment of stoichiometric combustion.

To operate in electric propulsion mode, water is vaporized and delivered to the Microwave Electrothermal Thruster (MET), an electrode-less electric thruster that permits high performance with water. The combination of the two propulsion modes, relying on a common propellant, promises to deliver a high-performance propulsion system which will be particularly responsive to emerging mission requirements, permitting either high-thrust or high-specific impulse as needed.

The dual-mode system offers major advantages over current state-of-the-art in-space propulsion systems, including: