In 1996 eAc developed the Hyperion I series of sounding rockets, which became the first hybrids to be flown from a NASA facility. A total of four Hyperions were flown from the Wallops Island. Two of these were fully fueled flights that reached 36.5 km and 33.5 km, as confirmed by radar skin track; one with full recovery. All the flights used N2O/HTPB hybrid propulsion. The hybrid technology developed by eAc typically used a cast or molded polymer fuel grain coupled with Nitrous Oxide as an oxidizer. The burn rate was controlled by the geometry and composition of the fuel grain and the flow rate of the oxidizer as controlled through fixed or adjustable orifices.
As a follow-on to the Hyperion, eAc participated in the Hybrid Propulsion Demonstration Program (HPDP). The HPDP was conducted by a government/industry consortium consisting of NASA-Marshall, Lockheed Martin, Thiokol, Pratt & Whitney's Chemical Systems Division, Rocketdyne, Allied Signal and eAc. The program consisted of the development and testing of 11-inch and 24-inch diameter hybrid motors, four flight demonstrations of eAc's hybrid-powered Hyperion sounding rockets, and the development and static firing of several 1100 kN thrust motors. The only flight element of HPDP was eAc's Hyperion launch vehicle.
Two low altitude check out flights reaching 7600 m altitude verified oxidizer loading, launch and abort procedures and transonic stability. Both rockets were flown off the same pad within 90 minutes and demonstrated simple, safe launch pad operations of hybrid launch vehicles. The third flight in January 1997 reached an altitude of 36.5 km. In April 1997, a fourth flight demonstrated a parachute recovery system. The rocket was successfully recovered 27 km out in the Atlantic Ocean after reaching an altitude of 33.5 km and demonstrated a 99% fuel utilization.
eAc formed a strategic alliance with Cesaroni Technology Incorporated (CTI) in order to utilize advanced polymer and composite technologies in the Hyperion 1C hybrid propulsion system demonstration launch vehicles. The eAc/CTI alliance has been formed to commercialize Hyperion launch vehicle technology into a viable sounding rocket product.
CTI successfully designed and fabricated a lightweight airframe for the Hyperion 1C program. The Hyperion airframe, motor casing and oxidizer tank were based solely on composite structures. This technology reduced the inert mass from 46 kg to 22 kg, improving the theoretical performance from the demonstrated 36.5 km to over 90 km with a 4.5 kg payload. This platform would serve as a technology demonstrator for the 22 kN thrust Hyperion 2 program that would be based on a 30 cm diameter motor capable of lifting 45 kg to 160 km. Several universities in the United States expressed an interest in utilizing the Hyperion 1C for atmospheric research in their respective aerospace engineering departments. As of 2003 Hyperion 1C was undergoing structural and pressure testing; and three rockets were in final production at CTI.
Success Rate: 100.00%. Launch data is: complete.
Stage Data - Hyperion
Status: Retired 1997.
Gross mass: 100 kg (220 lb).
Height: 5.80 m (19.00 ft).
Diameter: 0.15 m (0.49 ft).
Apogee: 36 km (22 mi).
First Launch: 1996.11.15.
Last Launch: 1997.04.25.
Number: 4 .