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Nucleus Ready for Launch, Concluding More than 10 Years of Development

News   •   Sep 25, 2018 09:49 CEST

The Nucleus technical team at Andøya Space Center.

When Nucleus launches from Andøya Space Center, it will mark the conclusion of the first phase of a development program that began more than 10 years ago.

The year is 2007. A small team of Nammo rocket scientists are at Andøya to launch a “Hybrid Test Rocket,” HTR for short.

The goal: to prove that Nammo had the technology and know-how to deliver something entirely new to European space flight. The launch is a success, with the rocket reaching an altitude of 13 km.

The original Hybrid Test Rocket launch in 2007.

Fast forward eleven years, and a new Nammo team is in place at Andøya, bringing with them the results from a decade of painstaking work in the form of Nucleus. 9 meters long, and weighing in at 800 kg, it is powered by a new generation of hybrid rocket engines, developed and produced by Nammo’s space team at Raufoss, ready to lift its first payload above 100 km altitude.

If successful, Nucleus will be the first rocket powered by a Norwegian engine to reach space, and the first European hybrid rocket to do so in more than 50 years.

Important milestone

Though they have tested and verified, checked and rechecked every part and component, the inherent risk of launching a completely new rocket design still hangs over them.

“We feel confident that we have done everything we can for this to succeed, but we are doing so many new things at once. The rocket engine has never flown before, the rocket design itself is new, and none of us on the design team has ever actually been part of a space launch before. So this is really exciting,” says Adrien Boiron, lead engineer for Nucleus.

Thousands of satellites

Nucleus is a sounding rocket, designed to lift scientific instruments into the upper layers of the atmosphere. The hybrid rocket motor propelling it, however, can be scaled up lift a wide range of payload, including small satellites into low earth orbit.

“Over the next few years there are plans to launch thousands of small satellites. The benefit of our new hybrid rocket motor is they can lift them into orbit with the accuracy of a liquid fuelled engine, but without the associated risks and costs, making it ideal for smaller European launch sites,” says Onno Verberne, Nammo’s VP of Business Development for space.

Nammo's North Star Concept.

Norway's first live-streamed space launch

For the past two weeks, Nammo’s engineering team has been hard at work at Andoya Space Center to prepare Nucleus for launch. The launch window opened on Monday the 24th of September, and the team is now only waiting for the correct weather conditions before moving forward with the launch.

In another first, the launch will also be broadcast live online for the benefit of both Nammo employees and space interested audiences around the world, something that has never been done before for a Norwegian space launch.

“Because so much of our what we do is defense related, we are rarely able to show people how we work. So for us Nucleus offers a unique opportunity to invite people in and let them take part in what is a really exciting milestone both for Nammo and for European space industry in general," says Endre Lunde, Nammo's SVP Communications.

The live broadcast will be hosted at Nammo’s YouTube channel. The exact time of launch is heavily dependent on local weather conditions, and will be announced via Nammo's Twitter account (@Nammo) when available.